Right Center Left: Essays in American History 0813517761, 9780813517766

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Table of contents :
Introduction: The Complexity of American History
1 The Complexity of American Religious Prejudice
2 Henry Ford and The International Jew
3 Jesus Christ as Business Statesman: Bruce Barton and the Selling of Corporate Capitalism
4 The Complexity of American Communism
5 It Cant Happen Here: Novel, Federal Theatre Production, and (Almost) Movie
6 Is Poland a Soviet Satellite? Gerald Ford, the Sonnenfeldt Doctrine, and the Election of 1976
7 God and Jimmy Carter
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Right Center Left

Right Center Left Essays in American History


Rutgers University Press New Brunswick, New Jersey

Copyright O 1992 by Leo P. Ribuño A ll rights reserved M anufactured in the U nited States o f Am erica

lib ra ry o f C ongre*» C ataloging-in-P ublication D ata R ibuffo, Leo R Right center left : essays in Am erican history / LeoP. Ribuffo. p. cm. Indudes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-8136-1775-3 (doth ) ISBN 0-8135-1776-1 (pbk.) 1. U nited States—C ivilization—20th century. I. T itle. E109.1.R53 1992 91-6030 973.9—dc20 CIP B ritish Cataloging-in-Publication inform ation available

Six o f these essays have appeared earlier in slightly or very different form and som etim es with different titles: Chapter 1: “Nativism and Religious Prejudice," in Charles Lippy and Peter W. W illiam s, eds., E ncyclopedia o f th e A m erican R eligious E xperience (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987), 3:1626-1646. Copyright © 1988 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, an im print o f M acm illan Publishing Company. Chapter 2: “Henry Ford and The International Jew ," A m erican Jew ish H istory 69 (June 1980), 437-477. Chapter 3: “Jesus Christ as Business Statesm an: Bruce Barton and the Selling o f Corporate Capitalism ,” Am erican Q uarterly 33 (Summer 1981), 206-231. Chapter 4: “Communism and Anti-Communism in Am erica,” H um anities 5 (A pril 1984), 8 -9 . Chapter 6: “Is Poland a Soviet Satellite? Gerald Ford, the Sonnenfeldt D octrine, and the Election o f 1976,” D iplom atic H istory 14 (Summer 1990), 386-403. Chapter 7: “God and Jimmy Carter,” in M. L. Bradbury and Jam es B. G ilbert, eds., Transform ing F aith : The Sacred and th e S ecular in M odem A m erican H istory (W estport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1989), 141-159.


S chool 4, P aterson, New Jersey Frances Tbrzella W arren P oint S chool, F air Lawn, New Jersey Lynne Langberg Anthony A rdis M em orial Junior H igh S chool, F air Lawn, New Jersey H elen Ryerson F air Lawn H igh S chool, F air Lawn, New Jersey Virginia Anasta8soff Frederick M . Binder Robert M asterm an R utgers U niversity Lloyd C. Gardner Eugene D. Genovese W arren I. Susman Yale U niversity G raduate S chool Sydney E. Ahlstrom John W illiam Ward


Acknowledgm ents Introduction: The Com plexity o f Am erican H istory 1. H ie Com plexity o f Am erican R eligious Prejudice 2. H enry Ford and The International Jew

ix 1 26 70

3. Jesus C hrist as Business Statesm an: Bruce Barton and the Selling o f Corporate Capitalism


4. The Com plexity o f Am erican Communism


6. It C an t H appen H ere: N ovel, Federal Theatre Production, and (A lm ost) M ovie


6. Is Poland a Soviet Satellite? Gerald Ford, the Sonnenfeldt D octrine, and the E lection o f 1976


7. God and Jim m y Carter







U sually it helps to throw m oney at problem s. W hile w orking through the intellectual problem s discussed in this book, I was fortunate to receive research grants from the N ational Endowment for the Hum anities, the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, and the George W ashington U niversity Comm ittee on Research. A t various stages, the essays revised for publication here have benefited from the criticism and advice o f many busy scholars and archivists. I want to thank Henry Abelove, David Alsobrook, JoAnn Argersinger, Jam es Banner, M iles Bradbury, Barton Bernstein, Peter C arroll, David Crippen, Emmett Curran, Robert D allek, Leon­ ard D innerstein, Justus Doenecke, N oralee Frankel, Jam es G ilbert, Cynthia H arrison, Barbara K raft, Barry M achado, Barbara M elpsh, Phyllis Palmer, O tis Pease, Irving Richter, Diana Rodriguez, How­ ard Sachar, Gaddis Sm ith, G eoffrey Sm ith, W erner Steger, Richard Ttedlow, Jon W akelyn, Peter W illiam s, and Jam es Yancey. Lorraine Brown generously invited me to present an earlier version o f chapter 5 to a conference on New Deal Culture at George M ason U niversity in 1981. Cyndy Donnell expertly transferred to disk several o f these chapters begun before I entered the com puter age. For a decade or m ore I have borrowed ideas and received m oral support from M uriel A tkin, B ill Becker, Ed Berkowitz, and Jim H orton, fellow historians at George W ashington University. O ther debts go back even further. It som etim es seem s that I have

Acknowledgmenta discussed— usually several dozen tim es—every intellectual, ethical, and educational issue o f the past quarter century with Lee Flem ing, Dan Guttman, Bruce K uklick, Ken O’Brien, M ike Periin, John Ro­ senberg, Sid Rosenzweig, Bob Schulzinger, M ike Sherry, Dan Singal, Sarah Stage, Jerry W inchell, and Leila Zenderland. No one could ask for m ore loyal friends. Septem ber 1991

Right Center Left

Introduction: The Complexity of American History

Ite r e are two basic ways to approach an understanding o f the past Some people try to understand it, or at least significant parts o f it, seriously and thoroughly, others do n ot M ost though not all profes­ sional historians foil into the first category, m ost journalists, politi­ cians, and ordinary citizens do n ot Since the mid-1960s historians have not only fought among themselves about the best wayB to understand the past but also worried increasingly about their relations with the other Americans for whom this is not a pressing m atter or even a noticeable issue. A ll o f the essays collected here have been affected by my profession’s recent intellectual opportunities and problems as well as by my own interests and idiosyncrasies. W hen I began graduate school in 1966, one creative phase in the study o f Am erican history was com ing to an end and another was ju st beginning. The first phase, usually described in the shorthand phrase “consensus history,” represented an attem pt, in the inescap­ able context o f the Cold War, to deal with the intellectual legacy o f Charles A. Beard, Frederick Jackson Turner, Carl Becker, and other “old progressive” historians. The second phase, usually described in equally problem atic term s as the rise o f “new left” history, repre­ sented an attem pt, in the inescapable context o f the Vietnam War, to question “consensus” orthodoxy without necessarily retreating to old progressive assum ptions.

Introduction Both o f these creative phases were em bedded in broader cultural developm ents. The signal m otifs o f Am erican social thought in the 19508 and early 1960s derived as much from m em ories o f the Great Depression and W orld W ar II as from the ongoing reality o f the Cold War. Contrary to the hopes o f many intellectuals, the econom ic crisis o f the 1930s had produced no revolution. Contrary to the fears o f m any m ore, the restoration o f peace produced no renewed econom ic crisis. H ie war itse lf brought the inconceivable horror o f the H olo­ caust, intim ations o f nuclear apocalypse, and Soviet dom ination o f Eastern Europe, h i this context, social thinkers as diverse as Daniel B ell, C. W right M ills, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., questioned the central prem ises that, with som e m odification during the 1930s, had dom inated social thought since the progressive era. Indeed, the term “counterprogressive,” coined by Gene W ise in 1973, captures the main concerns o f the leading historians from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. W hereas progressive historians had em phasized class, group, regional, and (occasionally) racial conflict, counterprogressives perceived a general national unity o f values and behavior. Especially suspicious o f econom ic interpretations, they discovered the unconscious and experim ented with psychological explanations. Chiding their predecessors for reducing ideas to social sym ptom s, they em phasized the im portance o f evaluating thoughts and thinkers on their own term s. U nlike progressive historians, who typically conceptualized politics as a fierce battle between forw ardlooking liberals and reactionaries, counterprogressives invariably conceptualized a responsible “vital center” (to recall Schlesinger’s fam ous phrase) in which pragm atists argued am icably w ithin broad bounds o f agreement while irresponsible “extrem ists” harassed them from the far left and far right.1 Counterprogressives pointedly rejected an ethos as w ell as a w orld view. Celebration o f “the people,” a hallm ark o f the progressive era and G reat D epression, yielded to fears o f “m ass m an.” Counter­ progressives distrusted both passionate actors in history itse lf and passionate prose by historians. Sim ilarly, they warned against inter­ preting past events according to contem porary standards. As early as 1948, Roy F. N ichols derided the progressives' “slavery to presentm indedness.” Indeed, the label “present-m inded,” a term earlier used without rancor by Carl Becker, becam e a standard denigration.


The Complexity ofAmerican History A ccording to the counterprogressives, partisanship and present­ m indedness had fostered intellectual and m oral oversim plification; specifically, the progressive historians had m isunderstood human m otives, m issed history’s paradoxes, and too neatly divided heroes from villains. Looking back in 1968, Richard H ofstadter, the fore­ m ost counterprogressive, sum m arized his generation’s accom plish­ m ent as the "rediscovery o f com plexity in Am erican history."2 Although m ost scholars in the 1960s rem ained content with using the progressive historians as targets in their m onographs, som e o f them explicitly reevaluated the whole progressive legacy. H ofstadter in particular felt a need to com e to term s w ith his "intellectual forebears." In 1968 he concluded that the progressive historians suffered from a "sim ple faith . . . in the sufficiency o f Am erican liberalism .” Turner had lacked the “profound am biguity” character­ istic o f the "m ost fruitful and interesting m inds.” In short, he was not the sort o f self-consciously cosm opolitan intellectual adm ired after W orld War II. Beard’s m ind was tougher but his “excessive preoccu­ pation w ith the m otives and m ethods” o f the powerful had produced a “fundam ental m isconception o f the way in which history works.”8 Curiously, the counterprogressives both claim ed greater intellec­ tual sophistication and evaded epistem ological issues that had in­ creasingly troubled progressive historians in the 1930s. W hat is usually called the problem o f “relativism ” had sim m ered in Am eri­ can intellectual life since the late nineteenth century. Was there an objective w ay to explain or even to describe a w orld that was, in W illiam James’s phrase, a “boom ing buzzing confusion?” W hile James, John Dewey, and other philosophers had w restled with relativism during the early 1900s, the progressive historians, im pressed by the claim s o f social science and feeling superior to th eir predecessors, whom they thought m ere men o f letters, had in itially slighted the problem too. A fter W orld W ar I and the G reat Depression had eroded their optim ism , however, the m ost reflective scholars am ong them wondered whether w ritten history w as, in Charles Beard’s phrase from 1933, largely an “act o f faith.”4 Beard distinguished between history as “past actuality” and his­ tory as “thought about past actuality-” A ll history in the latter sense represented an “act o f choice, conviction and interpretation,” and all historians were influenced by their “tim e and cultural setting” whether


Introduction they adm itted it or not. W ithout surrendering his comm itment to accuracy—indeed, as a way o f m aking history m ore truthful—every historian needed to examine» clarify, and enlarge his own “fram e o f reference.” Carl Becker m ade a sim ilar distinction between past events, which rem ained “absolute and unchanged,” and our memo­ ries o f those events, which were “always changing in response to the increase or refinem ent o f knowledge.” H istorians try to m ake the correspondence between these two histories “as exact as possible.” In doing so, however, they m ust abandon the illusion that facts spoke for them selves and acknowledge the tem porary nature o f their con­ tribution to knowledge.6 The m ixture o f epistem ological m odesty and professional hum ility that characterized Beard and Becker during the Great Depression had virtually evaporated am ong historians by 1960. The 1950s were an incongruously productive and prosperous tim e for intellectuals, especially for young intellectuals pursuing academ ic careers. Fed­ eral program s ranging from the G .I. bill o f rights to the N ational Defense Education A ct made graduate degrees accessible to some students from nonelite backgrounds, expanding colleges and univer­ sities needed new faculty, and prejudices against hiring Catholics and Jews dim inished. M oreover, even before the Cold War rendered all econom ic interpretations suspect, the old progressive assum p­ tions in several disciplines had run their creative course. “I f we were to have any new insight into Am erican history,” H ofstadter later rem em bered, the postwar generation needed to exam ine the past “from another angle.”8 Buoyed by intellectual challenges, rising status, and an academ ic bu ll m arket, scholars in the hum anities or social sciences w orried little about ethical—let alone epistem ological—relativism . For their part, though counterprogressive historians ritualistically called at­ tention to am biguity, com plexity, and irony, they never doubted their own ability to penetrate the am biguity, analyze the com plexity, and sort out the ironies.7 Confident counterprogressive historians thought that the differ­ ences between them selves and their progressive predecessors were stark. Yet tw o continuities now look as striking as the divergences. F irst, the search for hidden m eanings beneath the surface o f thingB that Ho&tadter criticized in Beard and recognized as a central m otif


The Complexity ofAmerican History o f progressive era social thought becam e with slight m odification a characteristic m otif o f post-W orld War II social thought Counterprogressive historians and pluralist social scientists showed an exces­ sive preoccupation w ith the m otives and m ethods o f the powerless, especially if the powerless were classified as political or cultural ex­ trem ists. Accordingly, the ideas o f Populists, Comm unists, and fun­ dam entalists were rarely explicated in their own term s even as a prelude to further analysis. On the contrary, their beliefs and behavior were reduced to symptoms ofsocial status anxiety or personal neurosis. Second, postwar intellectuals believed in progress in spite o f them­ selves. The counterprogressive dism issal o f Populists,, fiindam entflKVtV, f d "ft1™1 Anwrirana h-trawH thrir hftliaf that they knew not only where history had been, but also where it was going and where it should go. It was supposed to m ove toward “m odernization” and “secularization,” and conveniently enough that was the way it seem ed to be going. Presum ably all ironies and paradoxes along tire w ay would stop short o f cataclysm . Indeed, intim ations o f apocalypse were sure signs o f status anxiety and a paranoid style. A lthough noted counterprogressives proclaim ed pro form a pessim ism and cultivated w orld-weariness, none o f them sounded as troubled as H om er when he im agined the U nited States without an open frontier or Beard when he anticipated unrestrained presidential power. D espite prosperity and underlying optim ism , the historical profes­ sion in the 1950s, like Am erican society as a whole, was not devoid o f contentiousness or controversy. A spiring academ ics from w hite ethnic and w orking d a ss backgrounds still encountered snobbery and suspicion; fay and large A frican-A m ericans were ostracized or patronized. M ethodological disputes persisted despite the ebbing o f epistem ological m alaise. For exam ple, whereas m any counterprogressives borrowed from the social sciences, skeptics agreed w ith Sam uel E liot M orison that such ja rg on ” threatened “history as a literary a r t” John Higham , C. Vann W oodward, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., chided their fellow centrist liberals for exaggerating tile Am erican consensus. Further left, the U niversity o f W isconsin nurtured M arxists and unreconstructed progressive historians. Fac­ ulty and graduate students there took the lead in founding an im portant dissident journal, S tudies on the L eft, in 1969.8


Introduction By late 1967 critics o f counterprogressive prem ises w ere suffi­ ciently num erous and prom inent to elicit a full-fledged response in th e A m erican H istorical R eview . Irwin Ungar’s interpretation o f the *“New Left* and Am erican H istory” was vintage counterprogressivism in fram e o f reference and polem ical technique. A fter arbitrarily placing Christian socialists, left liberals, and diverse M arxists under the rubric o f "new left historians,” Ungar then m arveled at their disagreem ents. N evertheless, he thought “present-m indedness” dis­ tinguished these scholars as a group from their centrist colleagues. Follow ing standard counterprogressive practice, U ngar offered a psychological explanation o f their deviant belieft and behavior. An "excessive” sense o f persecution fueled their attacks on "senior men” in the profession, and their critique o f the New Deal resem bled an "adolescent rebellion.” Although m ost o f the historians in question w ere alm ost as old as Ungar him self—fbrty^-he persistently de­ scribed them as “young” and the word was no com plim ent H e ended w ith a classic counterprogressive convention, an ostentatious claim to open-m indedness. Because new left historians provided a "useful antidote” to previous exaggerations o f consensus, they deserved the attention o f senior m en after all.9 Although less reductionist than Ungar, H ofttadter saw in “new left” historiography a "culpable present-m indedness” rem iniscent o f that o f the old progressives. The ironies, paradoxes, and "m oral com plexity” that H ofttadter thought intrinsic to history were consid­ ered im pedim ents to activism by the “m ost feverishly com m itted” historians em erging in the late 1960s. Hence, he predicted that the “very idea o f com plexity w ill itse lf com e under fire once again, and that it w ill becom e im portant for a whole generation to argue that m ost thingB in life and history are not com plex but really quite sim ple.” 10 The “new left” label, w hich passed quickly in to professional dis­ course, was problem atical from the outset. Some historians wore the term as a badge o f pride, yet m ost used it critically to separate dissidents from “regular” or “real” historians. M oreover, m any “new left” historians were neither new to the left nor sym pathetic to the Students for a Dem ocratic Society (SD S) or other groups w ithin the new left as a social m ovem ent. The term unfortunately persists in the 1990s even though the social m ovem ent collapsed tw enty years


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory ago, so-called new left scholars have reached m iddle age, and m any o f their interpretations are now com m onplace. Problem s o f term inology aside, we need to appreciate that the radical and left liberal historians who had achieved prom inence by the early 1970s w ere at least as diverse as their counterprogressive predecessors and probably m ore diverse. F or exam ple, whereas Ga­ briel Kolko attributed Am erican expansion to capitalism ’s objective need for foreign m arkets, W illiam Applem an W illiam s stressed the pervasive but perhaps m istaken b elief that foreign m arkets were essential. W illiam s and Eugene D . Genovese not only agreed w ith the counterprogressives that m ost Am ericans shared basic values but also respected sophisticated “corporate liberals” who defended the capitalist consensus and principled conservatives who tried to m ove the consensus rightward. Conversely, H erbert Gutm an, N or­ man Pollack, and E ric Foner discerned im pressive radical chal­ lenges to capitalism , and Caroll Sm ith-Rosenberg pointed to an autonom ous women’s culture. M ost im portant for subsequent his­ toriography, although Kolko, W illiam s, Genovese, Barton Bernstein, and others influenced by classic M arxism or C. W right M ills closely exam ined the actions o f powerful planters, businessm en, and public officials, this approach ultim ately acquired few er constituents than the study o f “history from the bottom up” (a phrase popularized by Jesse Lemisch). A plurality o f historians who entered graduate school in the late 1960s preferred to study blacks, wom en, radicals, native Am ericans, antebellum artisans, industrial w orkers, sharecroppera, and ethnic m inorities, groups whose ideas, hopes, and efforts had previously been ignored or caricatured. Although m ost radical and left liberal historians rem ained content to use counterprogreB8ives as targets in their m onographs, som e o f them explicitly reevaluated the whole counterprogressive legacy. Lem isch in particular felt the need to com e to term s with his intel­ lectual forebears. W riting in 1969, he docum ented academ ic acquies­ cence in the Red Scare o f the 1960s, highlighted the scant attention paid to the “in articu late,” and contrasted the historiographical dism issal o f dissenters w ith the generous treatm ent o f the rich, fam ous, and influential. In short, Lem isch dem olished the notion that “Am erican historiography since W orld War II has been politi­ cally neutral.” The m qjor professional journals sum m arily rejected


Introduction his article and com m issioned no review s when an expanded version appeared as a book in 1975.11 Some radical and left liberal historians pointedly repudiated the counterprogressive ethos as w ell as the main counterprogressive prem ises. A t least a large m inority am ong them asserted that social activism in the present enriched our understanding o f the past; except for Schlesinger and M orison, no mcgor historian had cham pi­ oned this position in the 1960s. Howard Zinn, a veteran o f the old left, was present-m inded without apology. He wrote history in order to prom ote ‘ju stice and brotherhood,” not to display “em pathy with the dead.” Introspective scholars struggled, in M artin Duberman’s w ords, to com bine “historical data with personal reflection.” Consid­ ering the medium o f expression an im portant part o f the m essage, a handful o f historians played with new literary form s. W arren Susman sought a new vocabulary to fit the special “logic” o f cultural history. W illiam Applem an W illiam s’s books, Som e P residents and E m pire as a Way o f L ife, read like a m ixture o f Pascalian pen sées and the m usings o f a cracker-barrel sage. These stylistic experim ents, which went unappreciated even by W illiam s’s adm irers, highlighted his visceral populism and epistem ological relativism .12 Em battled radical and left liberal historians thought the differ­ ences between them selves and their counterprogressive predeces­ sors w ere stark. Yet several sim ilarities now look as striking as the divergences. First, the search for hidden m eanings beneath the surface o f things becam e, w ith slight m odification, a characteristic m otif o f social criticism in the 1960s. Radical and left liberal historians uncovered Cold W ar covert operations, governm ent disruption o f protest m ovem ents, and secret m achinations by businessm en trying to ride out several ages o f reform . This renewed em phasis on the m otives and m ethods o f the pow erful resem bled but did not sim ply replicate progressive historiography. Rather, revisionists had learned from the counterprogresaves that hidden m otives were not always narrowly econom ic or even fully conscious. The results were mixed. Some writere subtly analyzed the world views o f statesmen and slaveOthers offered another round o f psychological reductionism , th w im w HirartaH u trariata, m iparialiata^ and fiinHamwnfalinta mafauwl

o f Populists, Com m unists, and fundam entalists.


The Complexify ofAmericanHistory Second, though counterprogressives and their detractors usually disagreed about the significance o f class, both groups exaggerated ih e im pact o f ethnicity. In a curious reversal, however, counter­ progressives stressed conflict while their critics from the left slighted it H ofstadter w rote that Am erican life was “saturated” with ethnic and religious conflict, a view shared by Daniel B ell, Seym our M artin U pset, and other pluralist social scientists. In addition, they re­ garded a contem porary m anifestation o f that conflict, jealousy o f established w hite Protestants by upwardly m obile C atholics, as the key to the postwar Red Scare. Radicals and left liberals, in numerous local studies o f im m igrant and ethnic com m unities, m odified such sweeping generalizations about Jews and Catholics. Unfortunately, they too overstated the persistence o f ethnic identity. In addition, they slighted clashes between groups from the “new im m igration” that had arrived at the turn o f this century. Catholics and Jews typically appeared in revisionist scholarship as common victim s o f prejudice by an undifferentiated m ass o f Protestants or as common com batants against the corporate elite.19 Certainly ethnic diversity has influenced Am erican life. Indeed, discussions o f ethnicity and nativism dom inate several chapters o f this book. Yet the notion that the United States contained either particularly fierce religious conflict or especially unm elted ethnic groups would surprise residents o f Belfast, Belgrade, B eirut, Buenos A ires, New Delhi, Lagos, M ontreal, and Moscow. M aking their case for diversity, left liberals and radicals ignored international compar­ isons; m aking their case for conflict, counterprogressives often com­ pared the United States to som ething called Europe, but Europe m eant for them prim arily the cosm opolitan parts o f Paris, London, Oxford, and Cam bridge. In both instances historians who disagreed about much else shared a common provincialism . Third, no m ore than the counterprogressives did their early critics from the left doubt their own ability to explain the p a st The few exceptions stand ou t W hile W illiams ruminated on relativism , Bruce Kuklick tried to com bine a revisionist approach to foreign policy with a system atic study o f the philosophy o f history. Among prom i­ nent left liberals and radicals, only Gene W ise w orried in ways rem iniscent o f Beard and Becker that the problem o f relativism might invalidate all historical explanation. Conversely, Howard Zinn


Introduction found relativism liberating. Since there was “no one true picture o f any historical situation,” Zinn felt ju stified in em phasising those facts that helped the oppressed. In the early 1970s few historians on the left saw a conflict between their politics and m atter-of-fact em­ piricism . On the contrary, m ost believed w ith Lem isch that they were “finding out how things actually w ere."14 Fourth, despite H ofstadter’s fears, left liberal and radical histori­ ans did not repudiate com plexity in principle. On the contrary, David M ontgom ery adm itted his perplexity before the “peculiarly opaque character o f working class life,” Linda Gordon rejected theories o f status anxiety and com parable “one-dim ensional” interpretations o f human behavior, and H erbert Gutm an believed that an understand­ in g o f the past transform ed “historical givens into historical contin­ gencies.” Looking back in 1989, Lawrence Levine, who had been one o f H ofstadter’s graduate students in the 1950s, concluded that his generation had increased “acceptance o f the com plexities o f the p a st” 16 «



Since the m id-1970s, when I received my P h D ., several historiographical trends begun during the 1960s have accelerated whereas others have subsided or changed direction. Three decades after diplom atic historians denounced W illiam s’s book, The Tragedy o f A m erican D iplom acy, revisionist approaches to Am erican expan­ sion and the Cold War are respectable and perhaps dom inant within the field. N or is the notion that som e sort o f “pow er elite” m akes life-and-death decisions for the rest o f us any longer a shock. C uriously, how ever, exam ination o f the m otives and m ethods o f the powerful has fallen from fashion. Rather, historians o f my gener­ ation preferred (in the fam ous phrase o f B ritish historian E. P. Thom pson) to rescue from oblivion those men and women who had previously suffered the “enorm ous condescension o f posterity.” W hile political history fell into eclipse, black history, labor history, and women’s history em erged as mcyor areas o f study.16 The “new social history” became the prem ier field o f the late 1970b and 1980s. There was no reason in principle why social historians could not investigate the rich, famous, and influential. Indeed, presentminded scholars in the 1980s m ight have found ample inspiration to


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory w rite about such people. Yet the m ost celebrated—and in m any cases the best—recent scholarship has dealt with lost causes: antebellum artisans and tum -of-the-century Populists, whose ethic o f “republi­ canism ” was destroyed by industrial capitalism ; the Socialist party, which elected a total o f two m em bers o f Congress; and Com m unists, whose ephem eral political influence ended abruptly w ith the Cold War.17 Proponents o f a “new intellectual history," though less num erous than the new social historians, were equally convinced that they represented a m ajor m ethodological advance. In the early 1970s, two kinds o f “old” intellectual history warily coexisted. The sm aller group, typified by M urray M urphey, Bruce Kuklick, and David H ollinger, thought o f them selves prim arily as “historians o f ideas,” and they concentrated on explicating the thought o f such first-rank thinkers as W illiam Jam es, John Dewey, and Josiah Royce, w hile paying minimal attention to social and biographical influences. The larger group, typified by John Higham , Christopher Lasch, and Dorothy Ross, concentrated on less im pressive but socially m ore influential thinkers—popular psychologists, political theorists, and clergy—whose ideas they placed in biographical and ideological context. Dissatisfied with “contextualism” as w ell as the form al explication o f ideas, proponents o f the new intellectual history offered broad general­ izations about cultures or “m entalités.” They sought fresh approaches in anthropology, the sociology o f knowledge, and various versions o f European cultural theory, especially poststructuralist literary criti­ cism . The concept o f cultural hegemony, borrowed from the Italian M arxist Antonio Graznad, proved particularly attractive to those intel­ lectual historians who wanted not only to explain the weakness o f American radicalism but also to incorporate findings from the new social history. W ith varying sophistication they argued that a capitalist elite used ideas to legitim ate its power, and analyzed advertising, film s, television shows, and popular fiction to show hegemony in action.13 Intense interest in language soon becam e the tradem ark o f the new in tellectu al historians. They began “scru tin izin g the w ords on the page harder than new criticism ever had,” as French poststructuralist Jacques Derrida advised. They also studied texts that the new critics o f the 1950s, self-conscious defenders o f high art, would have scorned. Com bining d ose readings with the prem ise that


Introduction aesthetic judgm ents were social products, they typically repudiated the distinctions between “high” and “low” art and denied that any text was “privileged.” Then, m oving beyond aesthetics, many o f them argued that other ostensibly tim eless categories, notably those relat­ in g to race, d ass, and gender, were invented by ruling elites. But what had been socially constructed could be deconstructed. As liter­ ary historian Sacvan Bercovitch wrote, “language has the capadty to break free o f social restrictions and through its own dynam ics to underm ine pow er structures it seems to reflect*19 Furtherm ore, the confidence that had characterized both the coun­ terprogressives in their prim e and their early critics from the left steadily dissipated. This loss o f confidence resulted from econom ic conditions (as any self-respecting Beardian could see) and status anxiety (as any self-respecting counterprogressive would add). When I began graduate school in 1966, one o f my undergraduate professors, Eugene Genovese, warned me not to expect too m uch from my chosen profession. “History,” he said, “isn 't a business like other businesses—but it’s a business.” By the m id-1970s it was a business gone bust. A reserve army o f unem ployed Ph.D.s glutted the m arket, real incom e steadily declined, and colleges and universities took advantage o f the situation by reasserting prerogatives lost during the 1960s. M eanwhile, Am ericans showed strong interest in various kinds o f nonacadem ic h istoiy: breezy biographies o f fam ous or infa­ mous men and wom en, swashbuckling and bodice-ripping fiction, earnest television docudram as, m ultim edia exhibits at museums and historic sites, actors on tour im personating dead presidents, and satirical treatm ents o f the Am erican past. Professors o f history responded to the com bined econom ic and spiritual slum p in ways in which twentieth-century Am ericans usu­ ally react to depressions and recessions. They blam ed them selves for unem ploym ent, pursued ostensibly rational strategies to outw it an irrational m arket, and hunkered down in their own com m unities— in this case, their fields o f specialization—for m utual support. Inev­ itably there were nostrum s and exhortations. By the late 1980s, diverse historians insisted in m onographs, m em oirs, speeches, and sym posium s that our profession was in a deep crisis. Discussion centered on three issues: the politics o f history, the epistem ology o f history, and the business o f histoiy. 12

The Complexity ofAmericanHistory W hile Am erican society m oved rightward during the late 1970s and 1980s, the historical profession resisted the trend. M arxists, m ilitant African-Am ericans, and radical fem inists held high office in the Am erican H istorical A ssociation, Organization o f Am erican H is­ torians, and Am erican Studies A ssociation. H ie editorial boards o f the Journal o f Am erican H istory and the Am erican Q uarterly stood significantly left o f vital center. There were countercurrents or at least countereddies. Some prom inent historians com pleted the jou r­ ney, begun during the 1960s, from left liberalism or dem ocratic socialism to conservatism or neoconservatism , and a few follow ed the fam iliar trajectory from dogm atic left sectarianism to dogm atic right sectarianism . Staunch political conservatives and libertarians rem ained staunch political conservatives and libertarians. Protes­ tant evangelical scholars transform ed our understanding o f m odern Am erican religion, hut their work is hardly known outside that specialty. Indeed, in the early 1990s, political and cultural conserva­ tives exert virtually no influence on the m ain course o f Am erican historiography. H istorians disagreed am ong them selves about the m eaning o f what Jonathan W iener called the "institutionalization o f radical history.” Speaking for m ost o f the left, W iener saw a trium ph o f good scholarship over elite suppression. Others on the left discerned a pyrrhic victory. According to Christopher Lasch, leftists found a place in the historical profession “when they began to w rite books as narrow and irrelevant as those produced by their opponents.” Rus­ sell Jacoby chided radicals for losing their bite and even their bark after settling into academ ia. Conversely, centrist liberal Carl Degler feared a new intolerance im posed by the le ft M any conservative historians agreed with journalist Roger Kim ball that “tenured radi­ cals” were degrading hum anistic learning and corrupting vulnerable undergraduates.90 For conservative Gertrude Him m elfarb, the issue at stake was "nothing less than the restoration o f reason to history.” In Him m elfarb’s view, practitioners o f the “old history” like h erself concen­ trated on notable events, individuals, and institutions, and regarded the men and women who make history as rational political actors. Practitioners o f the “new history” not only slighted the study o f high politics and diplom acy, but also em phasized em otions and m asses


introduction instead o f ideas and elites. A long with m any other conservatives, Him m elfarb disliked the m qjor intellectual trends o f the past cen­ tury, especially the em phasis on the unconscious and the rise o f the social sciences. Accordingly, what she derided as the new history was nearly as old as the professional study o f history, and she alm ost admitted as much. Still, she thought that recent developments marked a change for the worse. Himmelfarb deplored fem inist, black, ethnic, oral, statistical, psychoanalytical, and—above all—social history as threats to a "m eaningful p a st”31 A few historians suggested that the past was so com plex that it could not be explained at all. The long-dorm ant epistem ological debate was resum ed in the 1980s and took a decidedly pessim istic turn. Beard and Becker, concerned prim arily with the problem o f ethical relativism , had no doubt that som e explanations were better than others. Beard specifically reaffirm ed w hat he called the "scien­ tific method” and urged “no abandonm ent o f the tireless inquiry into objective realities.” Now som e historians influenced by deconstruc­ tionist literary criticism doubted that they had any access to objec­ tive realities—if in fact objective realties existed. These cognitive relativists said that all historical evidence consisted o f endlessly problem atical texts. Indeed, life itself m ight be ju st another text subject to countless equally true—or equally false—interpretations. Epistem ological questions bothered intellectual historians in partic­ ular, but their esoteric debates, featured in nuyor journals, were sym ptom atic o f w ider concerns. Once again rank and file historians were wondering, as Becker had asked, “What is the good o f history?”0 U nlike colleagues concentrating on professional politics or episte­ m ology, historians concerned w ith the business o f history agreed on the cause o f the problem —the absence o f custom ers. Tb be sure, they w orried about different sectors o f the shrinking m arket: undergrad­ uates who preferred psychology or accounting m ajors, officials who lacked any understanding o f the past, pundits who cited sociologists instead o f historians, and the proverbial intelligent general readers who got their history from novels and docudram as. A handful o f historians blam ed the mass m edia for shortening the national atten­ tion span. By and large, however, m arket analysts w ithin the profes­ sion blamed historians themselves for the underconsumption o f history. They urged historians to create demand by lobbying on Capitol H ill,


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory consulting for television netw orks, studying public policy and perhaps advising governm ent officia ls, or cultivating high school teachers, m useum curators, jou rn alistic p o p u la rize », and other form erly neglected consum ers. A bove a ll, scholars as diverse as H im m elfarb and Jacoby urged historians to attract audiences w ith lu cid prose. Increasingly h istory resem bled a business like other businesses. *



From one perspective, we should not be surprised that prob­ lem s, controversies, and doubts surround the study o f history. A fter all, what historians do is counterintuitive. Tb begin with, we m ust show our students or readers that people now dead were once as fu lly alive as they are. Fortunately for specialists in U nited States history, George W ashington and Abraham Lincoln seem m ore lifelike than Muhammad and Charlem agne. Yet such fam iliarity com pounds one o f the hardest problem s historians face, m easuring continuity and change. We try to understand and then to show how dead people both resem bled and differed from men and women currently going about their business. Contem porary Am ericans resist the notion that their ancestors were as sm art, brave, or sexy as they are. It is even harder to convince them that intelligence, bravery, and sex appeal did not always m ean the sam e thing. Furtherm ore, special­ ists in very recent history soon discover that nobody considers any­ one else’s rendition o f the past, no m atter how serious and thorough, as reliable as his or her own m em ories. Finally, while anticipating an open-ended future, Am ericans look back w ith a visceral sense o f determ inism . According to Ahlstrom ’s Law, propounded tongue-incheek by m y dissertation advisor, Sydney E. Ahlstrom , "H istory had to happen the w ay it happened or it w ouldn't have happened that way* Viewed from another perspective, however, the pervasive sense o f crisis am ong historians is surprising. The intellectual challenges afflicting our counterintuitive craft are hardly new. M oreover, his­ tory as an intellectual pursuit—a calling rather than a business— has im proved considerably since the early 1960s. Those who think otherw ise typically contrast run-of-the-m ill recent books w ith a few well-rem em bered m asterpieces. Yet a review o f ordinary scholarship


Introduction from the 1950s should give pause even to Gertrude Himm elfarb. Not only were im portant subjects ignored, but sloppy research and slap­ dash analysis characterized many studies o f topics then in vogue. For every classic like H ofstadter’s The A ge o f R eform , there were dozens o f form ulaic attributions o f status anxiety and crude dichoto­ m ies between diplom atic “idealists” and “realists.” This acknowledgm ent o f intellectual progress is not intended as a celebration. As I reread and revised these essays, which were origi­ nally w ritten between 1980 and 19 89,1 saw how much I had been influenced by the dom inant historiographical trends. But I was even m ore im pressed by the ways in which these pieces diverge from the historiographical m ainstream . On the one hand, I often criticize the New Deal and Am erican foreign policy, sym pathetically observe leftist lost causes, playfully use evidence from popular culture, and deny that facts speak for them selves. In chapter 5 ,1 use the Federal Theatre Project to illus­ trate the lim itations o f the Roosevelt adm inistration. Chapter 4 contains my entry into the hitter battle about the lost cause o f Am erican Communism. In chapter 2 the analysis o f Henry Ford's anti-Sem itic series, The International Jew , illustrates the value o f closely reading even pernicious texts. On the other hand, these chapters also reveal greater.interest in the powerful than in the pow erless, an em pathie approach to rightist lost causes, and a com m itm ent to the old, costextualist intellectual history. Chapters 6 and 7 focus on Presidents Gerald Ford and Jim m y Carter. In chapter 3, Bruce Barton, who is usually presented by historians as a naive positive thinker, appears instead as a shrewd corporate capitalist In chapter 1 1 rescue diverse nativists from the condescension (though not the condem nation) o f posterity. M y divergence from the historiographical m ainstream partly re­ flects my tem peram ent age, and place o f em ploym ent David Potter said that historians are either “lum pers,” who stress the sim ilarities o f the people and ideas they study, or “splitters,” who stress the differences. Although I som etim es lum p and som etim es s p lit I con­ sider m yself prim arily a smoother. That is, I tend to see continuities along political or cultural spectrum s and over tim e. In addition to this idiosyncracy, I have always considered villains m ore interesting than heroes. Furtherm ore, having m itered college in 19 62,1 am at


The Complexity ofAmerican History least as much a product o f the “fifties" as the “sixties." Finally» I teach in Washington, D.C., where m y colleagues, studentB, and friends pay m ore attention to elections than to epistem ology. *


D espite—or because o f—my amorphous sense o f being a historiographical outsider» I rem ain unconvinced that the problems» controversies» and doubts currently surrounding the study o f history constitute a crisis. This introduction nevertheless provides an irre­ sistible opportunity to com m ent on these issues. My central prem ise is that the latest new histories that began to em erge in the m id1960s share one final feature w ith progressive and counterprogress­ ive orthodoxy: they too have ceased to be intellectually innovative. Although radicals and left liberals now dom inate departm ents at several prestigious universities and routinely sit on editorial boards, polem icists from all sides have caricatured the changing politics o f history. Notwithstanding Jonathan W iener’s W higgish interpreta­ tion, contem porary historians on the left, like their counterprogress­ ive predecessors, are not immune to insularity, cronyism , and the prom otion o f tendentious argum ents by citing books prom oting the sam e tendentious argum ents. N evertheless, the historical profes­ sion has becom e m ore diverse and less pom pous, and procedures for hiring faculty and evaluating m anuscripts are fairer now than they were tw enty-five years ago. N otwithstanding Gertrude Himmelfarb’s Tbry condem nation, rel­ atively few rank and file historians are radicals. Perhaps Himm elfarb is m isled by her custom ary concentration on elites. N or is the social history vogue as subversive as it seem s to advocates and opponents alike, lb be sure, many historians celebrate “the people" in general or confine their investigation to people they deem admira­ ble. Yet both the focus on private lives and the tendency toward celebration derive less from European M arxist influences, as Himm elferb contends, than from contem porary trends that are hardly radical. For exam ple, declining voter turnout and the rise o f “apolit­ ical" politicians signal a broader disaffection from public affairs. Sim ilarly, the m ass m edia have expanded their coverage o f personal­ ities and “lifestyles”; P eople, founded in 1974, now draws the highest circulation o f any m agazine. Am id this Z eitgeist o f self-absorption,


Introduction the study o f everyday life seem s relevant to historians o f m y genera­ tion in ways that high policy does not; few o f us sign treaties but all o f us have fam ilies and m ost o f us played or watched baseball. Then too, unlike their precursors in the 1930s, contem porary historians live at a tim e when alm ost everybody celebrates “the people* In­ deed, political conservatives cultivating the common man sound m ore like H enry W allace than Robert Taft. Even so, Him m elfarb is not entirely wrong. As was the case in the early 1960s, a dull orthodoxy has settled over the study o f Am erican history. Once again journals publish sterile debates structured as arbitrary dichotom ies. W ere slaves docile or rebellious? W ere women oppressed or active in “separate spheres?” Did the w orking class accept capitalism or struggle against it? Once again historians strain to m agnify the slight differences they discover. Did Italian-Am ericans in Brooklyn m ake m ore money, join m ore strikes, or attend m ore ball gam es than Italian-Am ericans in Boston? Once again, debates o f this kind take on lives o f their own and obscure deeper questions. F or instance, why did m any Italian-Am erican strikers from Brook­ lyn and Boston ultim ately identify with the common men and women in Richard N ixon's “silent m ajority?” Ironically, though detractors still accuse historians on the left o f pre8ent-m indednes8, their scholarship is largely irrelevant to ex­ plaining the contem porary U nited States. Twenty-five years ago, Professor Dean Albertson com plained that historians knew m ore about the Socialist party than the Republican party; the same is true today, only now we also know m ore about SDS than the Republican party. A s Am erican politics has m oved rightward, proliferating ac­ counts o f lost causes have served the left as a literature o f consola­ tion and positive thinking. In addition, w hile the kind o f com m itted history cham pioned m ost articulately by Howard Zinn has recovered the lost lives o f the oppressed, it has obscured conflict am ong victim s o f oppression and presented oppressors as stick figures, lb apply David Potter's distinction, historians on the left typically split heroic social movements to highlight their com plexity w hile lum ping con­ servatives into derogatory categories to highlight their perfidy. The historiographical trends o f the last two decades have “privi­ leged” som e specialties while rendering others underprivileged. Like their counterparts in religious studies, m ilitary historians have done


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory im portant w ork w ithout influencing the m ainstream . In a rem ark­ able reversal, historians o f public policy, who now concentrate on past governm ent as w ell as past politics, lead the list o f the under­ privileged. Consequently, historians in general know less about the exercise o f power than they knew tw enty-five y ea n ago. A few continue system atically to exam ine social institutions, but m any m ore sim ply postulate "capitalist hegem ony." Perhaps no one should be allow ed to use the phrase "capitalist hegemony” unless he or she can explain how the Federal Reserve Board works.33 1b som e extent the debate over epistem ology is a continuation o f politics by other jargon. Cultural historians on the left who decon­ struct such categories as d a ss, race, and gender are chided far playing trivial word gam es by ideological allies in social history. Other radicals and left liberals, w hile finding this approach valu­ able, join George Lipsitz in repudiating the "fetishing o f texts.” Conservatives prefer blanket denunciations o f deconstruction as a bastard child o f relativism , though there is no logical reason why they could not use this technique them selves to dem ystify "justice” ¿n d “brotherhood.” A vfar right. ripfinnat^irtirmiat. might even argue that the anti-Sem itic .version o f history in H enry Foni’s je r ie s , The Internatinnnl Jewr ia ah pnnd aw any other ” . O ther critics o f what John Thews calls the “linguistic turn” in historiography fear ju st such a descent into cognitive relativism . Tbews, for instance, condem ns the "intellectual hubris” o f those who reduce "experience to the m eanings that shape it.” M eanwhile, rank and file historians who have never read Derrida continue to decon­ struct politically suspect categories as zealously as their counter­ progressive predecessors discovered ram pant status anxiety w ithout reading M ax Weber. Indeed, m uch as M olière’s bourgeois gen til­ hom m e belatedly discovered that he had been speaking prose all his life, anyone who rejects w orn-out categories m ay find him self a deconstructionist unawares. Evidently I becam e one by questioning the usefulness o f “M cCarthyism .”28 A t the highest level o f erudition, the epistem ological debate repre­ sents yet another artificial controversy powered by its own momen­ tum . W hen acrim ony subsides, cognitive relativists usually concede that som e interpretations o f texts are better than others, their critics usually adm it that reality is too com plex to be described fully, and


Introduction both aides agree that historians should think m ore clearly about their counterintuitive cra ft Although the term inology has changed, the bottom line differs little from Gene W ise’s advocacy o f a “perspectivistic m odel” tw enty years ago or, for that m atter, from Beard and Becker’s advice in the 1930s.98 Fortunately for m ost historians, our subject m atter does not require operation at the highest levels o f erudition. By and huge, those who made the linguistic turn started out studying complicated texts and subsequently applied the technique o f very dose reading to sim pler stuff. Moreover, these new intellectual historians usually write books about other books, whether masterpieces or popular literature, rather than about what people do (or what people read and then do). In the case o f W illiam Faulkner’s m asterpiece, Absalom , Absalom , or even o f Ginny Haymond’s steamy romance novel, Som eone Special, both the authors’ intentions and the readers’ responses may be irrelevant or indeterm inant The same cannot be said o f social security checks and draft notices. Except in rare instances, recipients know enough respec­ tively to cash and obey (or evade) these texts. In short, historians need not despair o f explaining human thinking and doing. S till, the revived epistem ological debate rem inds us that our evidence is problem atical, our significant generalizations gross, and our conclusions fragile. In addition, practitioners o f the new intellectual history have renovated a valuable tool, close reading, that can also help political and diplom atic historians, m ost o f whom pay scant attention to the slippeiy quality o f language. Indeed, som etim es they pay less attention to these nuances than did the policy-m akers they study. No deconstructionist exam ined texts m ore seriously than President John F. Kennedy pored over conflicting Soviet m essages during the Cuban m issile crisis. Discussion o f the business o f h istoiy centers on the necessity and legitim acy o f popularization. The whole debate sounds peculiar be­ cause m ost Am erican historians are popularizers already. That is, we are paid to teach undergraduates and our classroom presenta­ tions typically lack the com plexity o f our w ritings; often they contain m ore ham than historiography. Russell Jacoby to the contrary, m ost o f us want w ider audiences. I would cheerfully appear on The To­ night Show whenever Jay Leno needs to banter about the origins o f the Cold War or The W ill to B elieve.


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory The real issue is not whether but how to popularize history. Our guiding rule should be to present the past in as com plex a fashion as any given audience can accept—and we should push at the m argins. Professors m ight em ulate their fellow perform ers from Broadway and H ollywood, m ost o f whom entertain diverse audiences and often play both com edy and tragedy. One distinguished veteran o f the Federal Theatre Project, E. G. M arshall, subsequently starred in N ational Lam poon’s C hristm as Vacation (1989) as w ell as the Amer­ ican prem iere o f Sam uel Beckett’s W aiting fo r G odot. S till, popularization o f history beyond a captive classroom audi­ ence entails problem s that the profession’s m arket analysts rarely acknowledge. Tb adapt Carl Becker’s fam ous phrase, every man or woman is his or her own historian in ways that he or she is not, for instance, his or her own astrophysicist As Becker observed in 1931, not only does everyone possess some “memory o f things said and done” which he or she applies to daily life, but everyone also acquires “from a thousand unnoted sources . . . a m ass o f unrelated and related inform ation and m isinform ation, o f im pressions and im ages, out o f which he som ehow m anages, undeliberately for the m ost part, to fashion a history, a patterned picture o f rem em bered things said and done in past tim es and distant places.” Tbday powerful commu­ nications m edia, som e o f which did not exist when Becker wrote “Everyman his own H istorian,” m ay occasionally cover quarks and com ets, but they constantly dissem inate im pressions and im ages o f the past.27 D uring the last decade academ ic historians’ fear for their craft m erged with a broader controversy over the state o f Am erican cul­ ture. For instance, according to w ell-publicized reports by Diane Ravitch, a neoconservative historian, and Lynne Cheney, chair o f the N ational Endowment for the Hum anities, pervasive ignorance o f our past reflected intellectual flabbiness and lowered educational stan­ dards. Their argum ents relied on survey data showing that m any high school students could not recognize notable names and dates. Because these questions were not posed to a control group o f adults, we cannot assum e that the current level o f m isinform ation signals a decline. We should also doubt that recollection o f names and dates serves as a fair test o f historical understanding and question whether teenagers should store up enough o f them to last a lifetim e.“


Introduction D espite their notoriety, the conservative educational critics share little comm on ground either w ith m ost professional historians or w ith the other Am ericans who continue to create their own versions o f the past from a thousand unnoted sources. W hereas historians increasingly acknowledge that facts do not speak for them selves, lay men and women often recall that so m any tocto m ade history in high school or college much less interesting than it turned out to be in swashbuckling or bodice-ripping novels, television docudram as, and m ultim edia museum exhibits. Perhaps Cheney and Ravitch focus on the captive audience o f adolescente because they sense that adults have developed a resistance, not only to com plex interpretations o f parts o f the past, but also to the idea that understanding the past in general is a com plex process. This resistance crosses class lines and spans the political spectrum . Conservative Suprem e Court nom inees solem nly vow to interpret the Constitution according to the intent o f the founders, whatever that m eans. Radical activists claim special knowledge o f the 1960s because they were there, w herever that was. N ational leaders (including Lynne Cheney's husband, Secretary o f Defense Richard Cheney) ju stify wars against distant tyrants by invoking the “lessons o f history,” however tendentious these m ay be. Cosm opolitan theater audiences m ull over W aiting fo r G odot but shun com parably difficult history books because they do not m ake the past “com e alive.” That is, they do not deal w ith people in the P eople sense. M ost m ass m edia presentations o f the past strengthen this resis­ tance. For instance, A tom ic C afe (1982), a docum entary satirizing civil defense in the 1960s, is present-m inded in the w orst sense. The film trivializes serious issues by highlighting the peculiar cultural styles in which they were expressed—peculiar, o f course, because they now seem “old-fashioned.” But how ever silly jin gles telling children to “duck and cover” sound in retrospect, civil defense was plausible during the 1950s, when nuclear arsenals w ere sm all and delivery system s unreliable. A t the showing I attended the audience also condescended tow ard the past. They laughed when President H arry S Truman appeared on screen to report the bom bing o f H iro­ shima—not because nuclear w ar m ade them nervous but because Truman wore a boxy suit and sounded overwrought to a later gener­ ation accustom ed to cooler announcem ents o f apocalypse.

The Complexity ofAmericanHistory Popular resistance to a com plex past has m any sources, not the least o f which is bad teaching. Yet schools have less im pact than educational reform ers think and, in the case o f history, teachers and textbooks exert less influence than widespread provincialism and faith in progress. Am ericans feel com fortable supposing that their forebears essentially resem bled them selves, ju st as they feel com­ fortable believing that Russians, Japanese, or N igerians think and act as they do (or at least are trying to think and act as they do). They also like to believe that progress has rendered them better than their forebears, including recent forebears who m ade them duck and cover. Although nostalgia som etim es leavens this sense o f superiority, few Am ericans would return to the “good old days" unless, like visitors to Davy Crockett’s cabin at Disneyland, they could bring along contem porary am enities. Resistance to a com plex past is not uniquely Am erican. B ritish geographer David Lowenthal finds com parable “voyeuristic empa­ thy” on both sides o f the A tlantic. Specifically, lay m en and women rarely conceive o f history as “contingent and unpredictable, or the past as a cluster o f realm s distinct from the present, each w ith its own m entalities and sociocultural determ inants." W hile acknowl­ edging in relativist fashion that professional historians, on the one hand, and lay persons, on the other, both “fabricate” the past on “fram eworks erected by intervening generations,” he sees little pos­ sibility o f bridging the “chasm ” between their attitudes.39 Lowenthal is too pessim istic. Psychologist Jerom e Bruner argues that the underlying principles o f any discipline can be “taught effec­ tively in som e intellectually honest form ” at any level. W hether or not Bruner’s hypothesis fits astrophysics, it does apply to history. Indeed, after w e break through the conception o f history as easy entertainm ent or ponderous heritage, everyone’s propensity to be his or her own historian can be advantageous. Anyone who rem em bers an argum ent w ith friends or fam ily can sense what Becker called the "m alleable” nature o f facts. Anyone who listens to representatives o f several generations discuss their respectively “sw ell,” “cool," and “awesom e" teenage years can understand that world view s vary across tim e and that these differences are em bedded in language. Anyone whose high hopes w ere sm ashed by a bad break can doubt that hi8toiy had to happen the way it happened because it happened


introduction that way. Even m ass m edia need not inculcate a sim plistic p a st The Sorrow and the P ity (1970), M arcel Ophuls's brilliant docum entary o f French resistance and collaboration during W orld W ar II, illus­ trates the problem atic nature o f history as w ell as any academ ic book.30 I f professional historians abandoned the general audience, Becker and Beard warned during an earlier academ ic depression, they risked sinking into herm etic irrelevance and arrogance. They also m ight begin to wonder, Beard added with characteristic econom ic em phasis, “why society provides a living." Current m arket analysts o f the history business fear that society w ill stop providing a living— or at least a com fortable living. These fears are probably exaggerat­ ed and should not, in any event, affect the practice o f history as a calling. Am ericans devote only a sm all portion o f their gross national product to free-floating inquiry o f any sort, and scholars in the hum anities and social sciences com prise a tiny fraction o f the infor­ m ation industry. Accordingly, ju st as historians should be able to popularize without guilt, they should not feel guilty about investi­ gating esoteric topics in abstruse ways. And we m ust never confuse the historiographical equivalent o f N ational Lam poon’s Christm as Vacation w ith the historiographical equivalent o f W aiting fo r G odot.*1 *



Recovery from the academ ic depression in the 1990s m ay facilitate another creative phase in the study o f Am erican history. As econom ic pressures dim inish, at least som e historians w ill cease hunkering down in their fields o f specialization and investigate ideas from across the academ ic barbed wire. This revival o f creativ­ ity should involve both an extension o f current interests and a recovery o f lost agendas. For »a m p le , except for students o f slavery, few historians w rite the explicitly com parative history they recom ­ mend. International perspectives would both advance our under­ standing o f specific issues—im m igration, industrialization, religious pluralism , and developm ent o f the w elfare state com e to mind—and also refurbish an old question: in what ways is the U nited States unique? Sim ilarly, we need to com e to term s w ith the unconscious. Judging from the proliferation o f self-help guides in this century,


The Complexity ofAmericanHistory historians use psychology less to understand the Am erican people than the Am erican people use psychology to understand them selves. And national politics m ust be rescued from the historiographical doldrum s. Pim ps, prostitutes, and pitchers are fun to study, but no pim p, prostitute, or pitcher ever ordered Am ericans into com bat. Perhaps this tim e tolerance w ill accompany creativity. Participants in the epistem ological debate inadvertently served the cause o f good manners fay highlighting the problematical nature o f evidence. Now historians should be especially wary o f arousing one another o f bad faith, let alone deliberate deception. In addition, all factions m ight agree to discard the epithet “present-minded” and admit that passion­ ate involvement with a subject can be as valuable in some cases as detachment is in others. Recent scholarship would be the poorer if political radicals and theological conservatives had not struggled to rediscover the complexity o f their respective traditions. Tolerance should extend to m ethods o f inquiry and m odes o f ex­ pression as w ell as ideological positions. H istorians often w rite as if they expect their audience to read only one book, or at least only one kind o f book. Quantifiers, relativists, nitpickers, cracker-barrel sages, and storytellers should no longer nag each other to change their ways. This sort o f badgering, though useful for self-prom otion in the history business, is intellectually useless. History, like literature, com es in genres. H istorians should be able to learn from reading— and perhaps from w riting—in m ore than one o f them . Other authors try their hands at plays, poetry, film scripts, short stories, and novels o f various shapes and sizes without any sense o f m ethodological apostasy, and literary critics rarely indict sonnets for containing less character developm ent than trilogies. Perhaps this tim e, too, intellectual m odesty w ill accom pany cre­ ativity. A s Carl Becker adm itted, study o f the past is not the only way to understand human experience. I f approached seriously and thoroughly, however, there is still much good to history, and I hope that these essays show some o f it.

n The Complexity of Americen Religious Prejudice

Being an Am erican m eans m any things, but the m eaning has always included the prerogative o f calling others un-Am erican. “N ativist? movements—m ovem ents dedicated to protecting the U nited States from allegedly dangerous foreign influences—have m arked Am erican history for m ore than two centuries. Often these m anifestations have been inspired by religious beliefe or expressed in religious language. Follow ing contem porary usage, the term “na­ tivism ” in this chapter encom passes hostility to both im m igrants and “alien” ideas. Sim ilarly, anti-Sem itism receives special attention as a particularly revealing form o f nativism . However, unlike m ost other histories o f religious prejudice, in which Catholics and Jews appear largely as victim s o f Protestant harassm ent, this discussion also considers clashes between these tw o m inorities as w ell as their treatm ent o f less influential faiths^ In a further departure from standard practice, religious prejudice here includes rationalist prej­ udice against religion in general or against individual religions. Religious prejudice has rarely appeared in pure form . Rather, it has been m ixed w ith disputes over d ass, ethnic, and denom inational pow er and prestige, as w ell as with nationalism , im perialism , rac­ ism , rationalism , opportunism , and personal anim osity. M oreover, the term s “prejudice,” “nativism ,” and “anti-Sem itism ” ca n y enor­ m ous negative connotations. “N ativism ” was first circu lated in the 1840s by foes o f “native Am erican” political parties that specialized

The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice In attacking Catholics. "Anti-Sem itism ,* coined abroad, was first used in 1879 by W ilhelm M arr, a proponent o f Jew ish disenfran­ chisem ent in im perial Germany. M arr wore the label openly, but Jew -baiters in the U nited States have often denied their anti-Sem i­ tism . Indeed, although various kinds o f religious bias survive in the U nited States, few Am ericans defend prejudice in principle. ♦



An understanding o f Am erican religious prejudice, nativism , and anti-Sem itism requires a sense o f the very different w orld o f m id-sixteenth-century Europe. Inhabitants o f that world could not conceive o f the current Am erican creed in which all religions stand equal before the law and all "m ainline* faiths deserve equal esteem . In sixteenth-century Spain and France, Roman Catholicism was synonym ous w ith patriotism . In sixteenth-century England, mem­ bers o f the established church divided on m any issues but agreed that the Pope w as, in W illiam Tÿndale’s words, the “devil’s vicar." Antipathy to Catholicism and enthusiasm for English im perial am­ bitions reinforced one another. Songs, plays, books, and engravings portrayed Spain as a bastion o f autocracy, ignorance, and cruelty w orthy o f the l\irks. In his D iscourse on W estern P lanting (1584), Richard H akluyt, an influential advocate o f English expansion, urged colonization in order to save the New W orld from the Spanish “dem ie Saracine” and the Roman A ntichrist “Planting«” first took root in Virginia, but the New England colo­ nies developed faster, left larger legacies to nativist descendants, and better illustrate the danger o f im posing m odem conceptions o f prejudice on previous eras. The Separatists who founded Plym outh in 1620 and their fellow Puritans who established M assachusetts Bay ten years later agreed that Roman Catholicism bore the “m ark o f the B east." They considered the Church o f England only slightly less tainted in the “im age o f the Beast.” Believing their own holy com m onwealths am ong Satan’s favorite targets, the Puritans vigi­ lantly guarded against Catholic infiltrators, “popish” ideas, and other heresies. In 1647 M assachusetts Bay ordered “perpetual im prison­ m ent” for any priest who entered the colony. Although Catholics rarely appeared, the Puritans found it difficult to m aintain ortho­ doxy. The thriving New England settlem ents, “m ixt assem blies”


Chapter 1 fia n the tim e o f their founding, quickly attracted Anglicane, Bap­ tists, and such unconventional Puritans as Roger W illiam s and Anne Hutchinson. In response Puritan leaders restricted the franchise to “visible saints'* and banished, harassed, or executed the w orst mal­ contents. W hen Baptists petitioned for religious toleration in 1681, Sam uel W illard accused them o f m isunderstanding the “design o f our first Planters, whose business was not Ibleration; but were professed enem ies o f it, and could leave the world professing they died no libertin es.” Puritan organizers o f com m unities that devel­ oped into New Ham pshire, New Jersey, and Connecticut agreed. Quakers seem ed especially dangerous. They not only allow ed wo­ m en to preach but also sanctioned antinom ian appeals to an “inner light,” which John H igginson, a prom inent Puritan, described as a “stinking Vapor o f H ell.” Stubborn and econom ically successful, the Quakers were hard to ignore. Between 1658 and 1661 M assachu­ setts Bay hanged four o f them who had persisted in spreading their doctrines. Revulsion against this harsh punishm ent produced a b rief respite. Starting in the 1670s, however, the Puritans reaffirm ed their comm itment to orthodoxy, partly in response to threats from local Indians and French Catholics in the North. A long w ith other religious dissidents, Quakers were frequent targets during the witch trials o f the 1690s. Cotton M ather linked incongruous theological foes when he claim ed that a bewitched girl unable to recite Scripture easily read a “Quaker or Popish book.” Quakers, B aptists, and heterodox Puritans found refuge in settle­ m ents that eventually coalesced into Rhode Island. Practices in this “haven” illustrate how little seventeenth-century conceptions o f tol­ erance resem ble our contem porary ideal. On the one hand, founder Roger W illiam s believed that coercion o f orthodoxy corrupted true faith; on the other hand, he denounced Quakers for doctrinal error, favored a m oral code based on the Ten Commandments, and consid­ ered Catholics foreign agents. Thus, although the charter W illiam s acquired in 1663 prom ised liberty o f conscience, the colony restricted activity on the sabbath and prevented Catholics and Jews from voting. N evertheless, Jews began to arrive in 1658 and acquired the right to worship in public by the end o f the century. Only Pennsylvania and, briefly, M aryland and New York rivaled Rhode Island as enclaves o f relative tolerance. In Pennsylvania, as


The ComplexityofAmericanReligious Prejudice In Rhode Island, tolerance did not m ean liberty o f conscience. Under the charter o f 1692 Catholics w ere forbidden to vote, hold office, or celebrate m ass in public. Jews, sim ilarly disfranchised, also faced com m ercial restrictions. Like Pennsylvania's Quaker founder, W i­ liam Penn, the Catholic founders o f M aryland understood that toler­ ance o f their own m inority faith required tolerance o f other faiths as w ell as considerable prudence. In 1663 proprietor C aedllus Calvert warned the first Catholic settlers against giving “offense” to Mary­ land Protestants. W ithin a decade disputes between Catholic gover­ nors and the largely Protestant assem bly erupted into violence. The Toleration A ct o f 1649 em braced all Christians except non-Trinitari­ ans. Tem porarily gaining fu ll control in the m id-1660s, the Puritans executed at least four Catholics and banned “popery, prelacy, and licentiousness o f opinion.” In 1648 a Jewish physician was indicted, but not convicted, for denying the Trinity. In New York the Dutch legacy and the lenient first English propri­ etor, Jam es, Duke o f York (later King Jam es II), underm ined Angli­ can supremacy. Establishm ent o f the Dutch Reform ed Church in the New N etherlands had not prevented settlem ent by Quakers, Luther­ ans, and Jews. In several instances Dutch superiors had overruled Governor Peter Stuyvesant, who wanted to bar Jew s, a “deceitful race” o f “Christ’s enem ies,” from trade if not from the colony itself. The treaty transferring the New N etherlands to England in 1664 provided religious freedom for Dutch Reform ed Protestants. In 1683 the predom inantly Dutch assem bly allowed tax-supported churches in localities w here tw o-thirds o f the voters agreed but forbade persecution o f any believers “in God by Jesus Christ.” Governors appointed by Jam es after his ascension to the throne in 1685 allow ed Catholics to vote, hold office, and openly celebrate m ass; lifted lingering restrictions on Jewish m erchants; and welcom ed Huguenot refugees. New Jersey and Delaware shunned such explicit experim ents in tolerance. N onetheless, obliged to accomm odate di­ verse populations, these colonies allow ed liberty o f conscience to m ost Protestants. Throughout the seventeenth century the A nglicans who had settled Virginia m anaged to exclude all but a handful o f Congregationalists, B aptists, Quakers, C atholics, and Jews. Even so, the understaffed Church o f England hardly constituted a form idable


Chapter 1 establishm ent In the early eighteenth century Scoto-Irish Presbyte­ rians becam e a powerful presence in the back country. M any Presby­ terians also settled in the Carolinas, where the Church o f England was even weaker than in Virginia. Georgia, chartered in 1732 as a buffer against Spanish Florida, established Anglicanism but ac­ cepted German pietists, Jew s, and virtually anyone else w illing to settle in this beleaguered outpost England’s long and tum ultuous Reform ation decisively influenced religious relations in the colonies. Tb govern the doctrinally divided Commonwealth established in 1649, O liver Crom well acquiesced in liberty o f conscience for m ost Protestants. W hile the Crown and Parlia­ m ent harassed their respective religious foes during the subsequent Stuart Restoration, odd alliances flourished am ong theologically incongruous groups. Edmund Andros, governor o f the consolidated Dom inion o f New England, used tolerance as a weapon against the durable Puritan elite and even allow ed George K eith, a leading Quaker, to denounce Puritan “degeneracy” from the Boston Com­ m on. A ccording to Cotton M ather, the “Bloody Devotees o f Rome had in th eir design and P rospect nothing less than the E xtinction o f the Protestant R eligion.” Flirtation with Rome ended when W illiam and M ary supplanted Jam es II in 1688-1689. Although the sub­ sequent Tbleration A ct allow ed freedom o f conscience, C atholics, Jew s, and Protestant dissenters rem ained second- or third-class subjects. New England Puritans lost m uch o f their power, and Cath­ olics faced im prisonm ent even in M aryland for openly celebrating m ass. As late as 1742 New York executed tw o suspected C atholics, one o f whom was actually a noryuring Anglican. The patterns o f b elief and behavior created by the English Refor­ m ation long outlived the specific theological controversies o f the tim e. Indeed, these controversies shaped the contours o f Am erican nativism alm ost a century before there was an independent U nited States. For exam ple, seventeenth-century Am ericans, like their m ore diverse descendants, feared that alien ideas m ight infiltrate their communities even if aliens them selves were barred. Sim ilarly, when Cotton M ather discerned C atholic and Quaker elem ents in w itchcraft, he illustrated the tendency, still strong in the twentieth century, to conflate incongruous adversaries. Since the seventeenth century, too, apocalyptic rhetoric and expansive categories like “pop-


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice a y * have coexisted w ith fine distinctions in the m easurem ent o f virtue. N evertheless, students o f nativism and religious prejudice m ust beware o f pronouncing ideas absurd or fears groundless sim ply because they are expressed in archaic or inflated language. In the seventeenth century Quakers did disrupt the M assachusetts social order, Spanish and French C atholic troops did encircle B ritish North Am erica, and occasional "papal plots” did arise in England. Furtherm ore, in the seventeenth century and afterw ards, words offer only im perfect indications o f behavior. M assachusetts Quakers, granted freedom o f w orship under the charter o f 1692, still faced persecution for the next twenty years. Conversely, Jew s and Catho­ lics in m any colonies evidently fared better than legal codes suggest Lax enforcem ent allow ed New York Jew s to build a synagogue in 1685 and vote until 1737; elsewhere som e Catholics voted and held local office after the Revolution o f 1689. Incipient rationalism , which eroded the significance o f theological issues, m itigated religious con­ flict in Philadelphia. Chronic labor shortages required concessions everywhere. In general, standards for naturalization were looser in the colonies than in England. By the early eighteenth century B rit­ ish N orth Am ericans eqjoyed greater religious freedom than any other people in the W estern w orld. *



The religious equilibrium was disrupted by im m igration, the first G reat Awakening, and the struggle between B ritain and France. Roughly a quarter o f a m illion Scots-Irish Presbyterians, two hundred thousand German pietists and Lutherans, and sixty thousand French Huguenots im m igrated before the W ar for Inde­ pendence. "typically, cultural rather than theological differences be­ tween im m igrants and the native-born prom pted com plaints that German and French settlers clung to their foreign ways. Bepjam in Franklin underestim ated the capacity o f the dom inant culture to absorb newcom ers when he accused "Palatine Boors” o f transform ­ ing Pennsylvania, "founded by E nglish [into] a colony o f A lien s.* In som e respects, however, im m igrants were changing the dom inant culture. Perhaps m ost im portant, the influx o f non-Anglicans strengthened the constituency seeking freedom o f conscience. Para­ doxically, after polem ics between New Light advocates o f the revival


Chapter 1 and their Old Light foes subsided, the Great Awakening also fur­ thered diversity and toleration am ong Protestants. Men and women spiritually reborn during the Awakening felt a bond across denom i­ national lines. In New England the dom inant Congregationalists becam e foctionalized, and Presbyterians and Separate Baptists strengthened their positions. The French and Indian War intensified anti-Catholic sentim ent and fostered Protestant m ilitancy. Adapting earlier invective against Spain, m inisters associated France with the A ntichrist, papal power, and the scarlet whore o f the Book o f Revelation. Som etim es they added that British victory m ight usher in God's kingdom . Less apocalyptic than the clergy, George W ashington suspected Catholics o f aiding the enem y and prohibited Catholic troops from celebrating Pope Day. In several colonies Catholics were disarm ed. Fear o f "popery,” which the colonists interpreted with characteris­ tic expansiveness, helped the movement for independence. As histo­ rian Bernard Bailyn has shown, various revolutionaries viewed British efforts to govern the colonies as signs o f a vast conspiracy intended to underm ine colonial liberty. From this point o f view the prospect o f a resident Anglican bishop looked like "ecclesiastical slavery.” Indeed, m any dissenting clergy still viewed the Church o f England as an exam ple o f thinly disguised "popery.” The B ritish cabinet prudently declined to dispatch a bishop but then erred by seeking accom m odation with actual "papists.” The Quebec A ct o f 1774 extended French Canadian influence into the Ohio Valley and granted freedom o f religion to Catholic settlers there who swore allegiance to the Crown. M any colonists shared Alexander Hamil­ ton’s fear that "priestly tyranny m ay hereafter find as propitious soil in Am erica as it ever had in Spain or Portugal.” John Adams fused traditional Protestant antipathy with Enlightenm ent disdain for the C atholic "horror o f letters and learning.” U ltim ately the War for Independence created few dea r divisions along sectarian lines. Anglicans were disproportionately loyalist, especially in the north, w hile New Light evangelicals—Presbyteri­ ans, Congregationalists, and to som e extent Baptists—w ere dis­ proportionately revolutionary. Although religious and cultural m inorities tended to side with the Crown, the Jew ish population o f roughly two thousand provided an exception to this generalization.


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice Two Jew s acted as aides to General W ashington. A Roman Catholic also served on W ashington's staff, yet m ost Catholics probably pre­ ferred the Crown to a prospective evangelical republic. Sim ilarly, Quebec declined to join the United States, even though a delegation from the Continental Congress prom ised religious freedom (a dele­ gation including John C arroll, who later becam e the first Catholic bishop in the United States). Vital assistance from France further challenged the colonists’ ritual allegations o f C atholic ignorance, tyranny, and disloyalty. Conversely, Quakers, German pietists, and other pacifists who refused to pay w ar taxes or swear allegiance to the new governm ent faced arrest, loss o f political rights, or seizure o f property. O verall the revolutionary era accelerated the momentum toward religious toleration and liberty. On the eve o f independence a m ajor­ ity o f the thirteen colonies still retained religious establishm ents. As John Adams said in defense o f M assachusetts, however, these were “very slender” establishm ents. In the five southern states Protestant dissenters usually voted, held office, attended their own services, and escaped taxation for the Anglican Church. Under New York's m ultiple establishm ent m ost non-Anglicans could apply tax m oney to their own clergy. M assachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hamp­ shire required each local jurisdiction to support a m inister—a sys­ tem that benefited the Congregationalist m ajority and highlighted the burdens im posed even by slender establishm ents. B aptists who refused on theological grounds to seek exem ptions were badgered or im prisoned; Quakers and som e Anglicans also suffered. Isaac Backus, a leading B aptist pastor, challenged state authori­ ties by asking, in effect: if the Revolution opposed “ecclesiastical slavery,” then how could the state favor one religion over another? Such ideological inconsistency would have produced few legal changes if dissenters like Backus, allied with Enlightenm ent deists, had not pressed the point. P olitical, econom ic, and dem ographic factors also encouraged disestablishm ent. Southern Anglican establishm ents, tainted by Toryism , fell m ore easily than their Congregationalist counterparts in New England. M oreover, num erous Scots-Irish southerners join ed Thomas Jefferson in scorning Anglicanism and its Am erican successor, the Episcopal church, as “truly the religion o f the rich *

Chapter 1 During or soon after the W ar for Independence, som e states abol­ ished established churches, others forbade their creation, and still others m oved from single to dual or from dual to m ultiple establish­ m ent The new state constitutions im plem enting these changes un­ deniably advanced the cause o f freedom o f conscience. N evertheless, ju st as prewar establishm ents were weaker than the term im plies, so, too, did disestablishm ent fa ll short o f religious equality. Signifi­ cantly, disestablishm ent did not necessarily prevent general assess­ m ents to support Christian—m ost often Protestant—churches. A m ajority o f states still barred or restricted office holding by Catho­ lics, and only New York placed no such lim itation on Jews. Even Pennsylvania and Delaware, which had never established churches, required officials to affirm the Trinity. The federal Constitution w ritten in 1787 was much m ore liberal than those o f m ost states. No delegate to the Philadelphia Conven­ tion proposed any sort o f religious establishm ent. A rticle V I, section 3, banning religious tests for office, passed easily despite a handful o f objections by delegates from North Carolina, C onnecticut, and M aryland. A few speakers at state ratifying conventions agreed with Rev. David Caldwell, who told the North Carolina m eeting that the Constitution invited “Jews and pagans o f every kind to com e am ong us.” A m ore common com plaint, that there was no bill o f rights protecting religious and other freedom s, soon found remedy. The F irst Amendm ent prohibited Congress from enacting any law “respecting an establishm ent o f religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” A t m inimum, this amendment bars the federal governm ent from requiring com pulsory church attendance or di­ rectly aiding any one denom ination at the expense o f the others. A fter tw o centuries o f debate, however, scholars and ju rists still have not reached a consensus on what else the First Amendment m eans. Although Jam es M adison guided the m easure through Congress, his own belief in the “perfect separation” o f church and state probably represented a m inority opinion am ong his fellow legislators and countrym en at large. D iscussion o f the am endment in Congress and the state legislatures revealed little concern for the protection o f infidels. Debate focused instead on the potential threat to religion, and som e proponents saw the amendment as a way to protect state establishm ents from federal encroachm ent.


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice The federal Constitution set a pow erful exam ple. In the decade follow ing ratification, G eorgia and South Carolina abandoned pref­ erential treatm ent for Christians, w hile Pennsylvania and Delaware dropped their respective New Testam ent and Trinitarian require­ m ents for office. No state after the original thirteen required a religious te s t Yet som e faiths rem ained legally inferior to others. M ultiple Protestant establishm ents lingered in Verm ont until 1807, Connecticut until 1818, New Ham pshire until 1819, and M assachu­ setts until 1833. New Jersey C atholics rem ained ineligible for high office until 1844; restrictions in New Ham pshire lasted until 1876. In M aryland and Rhode Island analogous curbs on Jew s survived until 1826 and 1842, respectively. N orth Carolina excluded Jews from the executive branch until Reconstruction. Even where these m easures affected few if any citizens, they im posed a stigm a, as a C atholic proponent o f Jew ish equality told the N orth C arolina con­ stitutional convention in 1836. Cam paigns to abolish religious tests often entailed bitter battles. Foes o f M aryland’s “Jew b ill” de­ nounced its forem ost advocate, a Protestant, as “Judas Iscariot” Viewed in isolation, the controversy over religious tests exaggerates prejudice against Catholics and Jews during the early national period. For the m ost part these restrictions reflected pro form a affirm ation o f Protestant virtue or concessions to clerical suspicion rather than fer­ vent hostility to Catholics and Jews. Thus evasions and adjustments could and did occur. The M assachusetts Constitution o f 1780 perm itted Catholics to hold office if they rejected papal authority “in any m atter civil, ecclesiastical, or spiritual.” New York dropped the ban on Catholic legislators when the first one was elected in 1806. D ism issing tales o f the “sordid ignorance” o f “popery,” som e Protestants sent their chil­ dren to C atholic schools. In the 1790s the Adams adm inistration attem pted to curb entry by Jeffersonian “w ild Irish” (a category that included Protestants as w ell as C atholics), but thereafter im m igra­ tion rem ained dorm ant as a national issue until the late 1820s. Sim ilarly, rivalry between Protestant and C atholic clergy sim m ered w ithout reaching a boiL R estrictions on Jew s w ere less the product o f anti-Sem itism in particular than w ariness o f non-C hristians in general. Typical in this respect, a delegate to the M assachusetts constitutional con­ vention in 1820 grouped *jews, m aham edans, deists and atheists”


Chapter 1 am ong enem ies o f the "com mon religion o f the Commonwealth.” A s early as 1809 the North Carolina legislature bent the law to seat a Jew. Although M aryland barred Jews from state office, one served as U nited States attorney in Baltim ore. These incongruities sym bolize a larger am bivalence. On the one hand, since the days o f Cotton M ather and Roger W illiam s, Protestants had view ed Jews as living link« with Old Testament prophets; on the other hand, they held JewB responsible for crucifying Christ and rejecting H is m essage. N or were Am erican Protestants and Catholics immune to the stereo­ types long held in Europe o f Jews as unusually greedy, cunning, and rlanniah. * • *

The two decades follow ing the War for Independence were probably the least devout in United States history. Indeed, Protestant m inisters fought to retain state support partly because voluntary con­ tributions declined. N ot only were m any Am ericans unchurched, but a significant m inority experim ented w ith “rational religion.” En­ lightenm ent deists, whose intellectual contribution to the Revolu­ tion had eclipsed that o f the clergy, held a broad spectrum o f beliefe. For exam ple, W ashington rem ained w ithin the Episcopal church, John Adams drifted toward U nitarianism , and Elihu Palmer, Ethan A llen, and Thom as Paine explicitly attacked Christianity. N or were these attacks the only unsettling consequences o f w hat Bernard Bailyn calls the “contagion o f liberty.” The low er classes began to refuse deference even to their creditors. These trends disrupted the coalition am ong evangelical, enlight­ ened, and im pious revolutionaries. The clergym en who favored sep­ aration o f church and state had never doubted that the United States m ust rem ain stable, m oral, and, broadly speaking, Christian. Responding to the apparent decline o f religious belief, they led a second G reat Awakening whose consequences dwarfed those o f the first. By the tim e the la st state-supported churches had been disestablished in 1833, interdenom inational evangelical Protestant­ ism was already becom ing, in Professor W illiam G. M cLoughlin’s phrase, a “new form o f establishm ent” U ntil the eve o f the C ivil War this second Awakening energized movements to uplift strivers or incarcerate m alcontents, to abolish war or invade M exico, to end


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice slavery or extend its boundaries. Participants in such m ovements played variations on the central them e o f the revolutionary ideology —that hidden conspiracies threatened Am erican freedom . As early as 1798 m ilitant Federalist m inisters assailed what Rev. Jedidiah M orse, a New England Congregationalist, called a "secret plan" to destroy Am erican "liberty and religion.” According to M orse, this conspiracy, which had begun in 1736 with the creation o f the Bavarian Society o f Illum inati, an international Enlightenm ent fra­ ternity, had already spread through European M asonic lodges and precipitated the French Revolution. M orse adapted English charges against the Illum inati to fit Am erican circum stances. Prom inent Protestant clergy and at least one Roman C atholic priest echoed his daim s. Although these polem icists hesitated to condem n all M asons, they quickly conducted that Jeffersonian Republican political du bs were the m ain source o f dom estic danger. These allegations were only slightly m ore farfetched than others routinely exchanged by Federalists and Dem ocratic Republicans in the 1790s. M orse and his allies correctly believed that the forem ost Republicans, Thomas Jefferson and James M adison, favored strict separation o f church and state. N evertheless, the notion o f a conspir­ acy stretching from Bavaria to M onticello never took hold as a central issue in national politics. President John Adam s hedged on the validity o f M orse’s claim s, and the M asons enhanced their repu­ tation by advertising George W ashington as one o f their own. By 1830, however, fear o f M asonic subversion had inspired a potent social movement and prom ising political party, the A ntiM asons. In 1826 M asons in Canandaigua, New York, apparently abducted and m urdered W illiam M organ, one o f the order’s loudest critics. M asons im peded investigation o f the crim e, secured light sentences or acquittals for indicted brethren, and threatened news­ papers covering the story. Incensed critics interpreted M asonic cronyism as grand conspiracy, lb expose the conspiracy, they ran candidates for the New York legislature and spread warnings to nearby states. Profiting from a political spectrum in flux since the Federalist collapse in the 1810s, the Anti-M asonic party influenced —and occasionally dom inated—the politics o f New York, M assa­ chusetts, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island during the early 1830s.


Chapter 1 Anti-M asonry grew strongest in New England, where Jedidiah M orse’s m essage had seeped into political lore, and am ong trans­ planted New Englanders elsewhere. U nlike M orse’s sm all band o f elite Federalist clergy, Anti-M asons prom oted their m ovem ent in the name o f the common man. A s Pennsylvania leader Thaddeus Ste­ vens com plained, M asonry fostered “hatred o f dem ocracy” w hile securing “unm erited advantage to m embers o f the fraternity over the honest and industrious uninitiated farm er, m echanic, and laborer.” Faith as w ell as fortune seem ed at stake. B aptists, M ethod­ ists, and Presbyterians shunned M asonry as a rationalist replace­ m ent for religion. Quakers and German pietists objected to the order’s secret oaths, which sounded especially sinister in their retell­ ing by apostate M asons. Certainly jealousy o f the very successful Masons aided party recruitm ent Nonetheless, Anti-M asons included prosperous townspeople as w ell as poor farm ers. N or did such A ntiM asonic leaders as Thurlow W eed, W illiam Seward, and John Quin­ cy Adams em erge from society’s fringes. Although M asonry constituted no “secret governm ent” as Seward contended, Anti-M asons had plausible reasons for viewing it with sus­ picion. The order had grown rapidly in size and influence since the War for Independence. Investigations o f Morgan’s disappearance were thwarted because two-thirds o f New York state officials were members. The Masons’ prominence and influence, combined with their deviance from the prevailing dem ocratic ethos, made them appealing targets. Consistent with their Enlightenment heritage, Masons purported to select their members from a natural aristocracy instead o f celebrating the common man. A t a tim e when many m iddle-class men considered play a threat to discipline, they also sanctioned what a Connecticut Anti-M ason called “extravagant m irth.” M iddle-class women formed an im portant auxiliary to the Anti-M asonic party, prompted by their awareness that such playful sessions drew husbands away from the home. Above all, Masonry, which even conducted funeral services for members, looked suspiciously like a rival religion to devout Protestants in the m idst o f an awakening. In short, Anti-M asonic polem ics were no less rooted in the contentious realities o f the 1830s than analogous denunciations o f a southern “slavocracy,” an international abolitionist “conspiracy,” or the “Hydra-headed monster” (as President Andrew Jackson called the Second Bank o f the United States).


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice A nti-M asonry achieved greater success as a social m ovem ent than as a party. The congressional delegation never exceeded tw enty-five. A lthough several state legislatures investigated the M asons, revoked lodge charters, or banned "extraju dicial oath s," enforcem ent w as lax. Form er A ttorney G eneral W illiam W irt, the reluctant presidential candidate in 1832, won roughly 3 percent o f the vote and carried on ly Verm ont. Scorning his supporters as "fan atical fools,” W irt failed to see th at party m anagers had be­ com e less interested in uprooting M asonry than in opposing Jack­ sonian D em ocrats. By 1840 alm ost a ll the leaders as w ell as m ost o f the rank and file had join ed the W hig coalition that elected P resident W illiam H enry H arrison. A nti-M asonry becam e a vic­ tim not only o f its own success as a social m ovem ent but also o f the successful re-creation o f a tw o-party system . A t the grass roots level M asons w ere excluded from congregations and ju ries, rejected as suitors, and otherw ise stigm atized. V erging on col­ lapse, the order no longer looked su fficien tly threatening to ju stify an A nti-M asonic party. The Church o f Jesus C hrist o f Latter-D ay Saints (M orm ons) faced m uch harsher persecution than the surrogate religion o f Masonry. This of& hoot o f evangelical Protestantism offered earthly commu­ nity, an accessible afterlife, and the strong leadership o f founder Joseph Sm ith, Jr. M ormonism im m ediately attracted adherents and enem ies. W ithin a year o f the church’s founding in A pril 1830 the m ain body o f M orm ons m oved from upstate New York to Ohio, w hile a second large contingent settled in M issouri. In both places M or­ m ons suffered physical abuse, destruction o f property, and occa­ sional m urders. Com plying with the governor’s declaration that they m ust be "exterm inated” or driven from M issouri, m ilitia m assacred a M ormon settlem ent in 1838. Illinois provided tem porary sanctu­ ary. A fter Sm ith’s arrival in 1839, M ormons transform ed a swam py river town into a flourishing, nearly sovereign city o f fifteen thou­ sand, which they renam ed Nauvoo. Non-M orm ons denounced Nauvoo’s freedom from state control, Smith’s autocratic rule, and the church’s drift tow ard polygamy. In 1844 Sm ith suppressed a newspa­ per published by apostate M ormons. A fter com plicated legal and param ilitary m aneuvers, Sm ith and his brother Hyrum were in­ dicted for treason, jailed in Carthage, Illin ois, and m urdered by a


Chapter 1 m iliti« turned m ob on 27 June 1844. Brigham Young reluctantly led the M ormons west from Nauvoo during the winter o f 1846-1846. W ithin three years the Mormons built a prosperous enclave around the Great Salt Lake, wrote a constitution, and sought admission to the Union. In 1850 a hostile Congress granted only territorial status to Utah, though President M illard Fillmore prudently appointed Young governor. There followed six years o f acrimony between church leaders and non-Mormon Indian agents, federal judges, and surveyors. Em­ bittered officials convinced President Jam es Buchanan that the M or­ mon hierarchy fostered “open rebellion” against the United States. In 1857 Buchanan ordered the arm y to escort a new, non-M ormon governor to Utah, expecting m ost M ormons to welcom e this libera­ tion from ecclesiastical tyranny. Instead, the M ormons, fearing an­ other cam paign o f exterm ination, fortified m ountain passes, raided arm y supply wagons, and, allying with Indians at M ountain Mead­ ow s, m urdered settlers bound for California. A fter federal troops encam ped near Salt Lake City, the ignoble “M ormon War” ended in an am biguous truce. Antebellum persecution o f M ormons was not lim ited to idiosyn­ cratic agitators. The deadliest m obs consisted o f m ilitia acting with governm ent sanction or acquiescence; mob leaders were often m er­ chants or professionals. Econom ic grievances frequently fueled reli­ gious anim osity. For instance, a Mormon bank in Ohio failed during the panic o f 1837, Mormon m igration to Illinois raised land prices, and church members preferred to conduct business am ong them­ selves. Some assailants were prom pted by the prospect o f plunder. Victim s o f a characteristic nativist double bind, M ormons found that their current prosperity elicited envy while their humble origins prom pted scorn. Anti-M orm on tracts, speeches, and press accounts appealed to Am ericans who had never met—let alone com peted with—a Mor­ mon. Affirm ing democracy and condemning secrecy, the main them es in this literature overlapped with earlier attacks on Masonry. M or­ m ons were accused o f treason, terrorism , im portation o f foreign “serfs,” and a “grand conspiracy” with Indians to destroy white settlem ents. Even by antebellum standards anti-M orm on rhetoric displayed an unusually high proportion o f m isunderstanding, envy, and psychological projection. A fter all, though Brigham Young may


The Complexity ofAmerican Retigiou* Prejudice have dream ed o f divine judgm ent on the U nited States, he never seriously considered secession. W ith few exceptions, such as the M ountain M eadows killings, M ormons resorted to violence only in self-defense. M orm on im m igration totaled twenty-two thousand by 1866, a sm all fraction o f the nation's newcom ers, lb their credit, m ost M orm ons agreed w ith Young that it was cheaper and m ore humane to feed Indians than to k ill them . N onetheless, anti-M or­ m on sentim ent was so pervasive during the disintegrating 1860s that, as the New York Tim es editorialized, few Am ericans would have com plained if they were “utterly exterm inated.” Roman C atholics were too num erous and w ell-connected to exter­ m inate. Yet, during the three decades before the C ivil War, Catholics encountered w orse treatm ent than at any other tim e in U nited States history. The im m igration o f m ore than one m illion Catholics hftginning in the late 1820s raised sim m ering controversy to a boil. The new arrivals, who cam e prim arily from the German states and Ireland, typically drank alcohol, supported urban political m achines, slighted the sabbath, and disproportionately filled ja ils, asylum s, and relief rolls. A ppalled Protestants denounced “popery” in ser­ m ons, speeches, periodicals, novels, and children’s books. Leaders o f anti-Catholic m ovem ents included distinguished clergy, prom inent politicians, and unem ployed workmen as w ell as renegade priests, opportunists, and thugs. Their activities ranged from proselytism to arson. Polem icists renewed traditional accusations that Catholicism fos­ tered false faith, political tyranny, and sexual im m orality. Although allusions to the “scarlet whore” were no longer de rigueur, the Pres­ byterian Assem bly o f 1836 declared Catholicism “essentially apostasized from the religion o f our Lord.” Seventh Day Adventists, a new religion that em erged from the apocalyptic fervor o f the era, held Catholics responsible for the sin o f Sunday worship. Patrician historians presented the Catholic church as the prototypical enem y o f liberty and progress .A w fu l D isclosures o f the H otel D ieu N unnery o f M ontreal (1836) stands out am ong tracts alleging priestly lechery; ostensibly the confessions o f “M aria M onk,” a runaway nun, it actu­ ally com bined the fantasies o f a young woman who had never taken vows w ith the prose o f several Protestant m inisters. The traditional m otifs o f anti-Catholicism som etim es gave way to condem nation o f


Chapter1 im m igrants who failed to m eet evangelical standards o f honesty, diligence, independence, and sobriety. The invective used by nativist skilled w orkers m ixed econom ic self-interest w ith snobbery; Phila­ delphia carpenter Jacob Tfeck told a trades convention in 1847 that the glut o f Catholic im m igrants on the labor m arket threatened the Am erican artisan’s ‘ boasted respectability and m oral standing.” Ac­ cording to A P lea fo r th e W est, a nativist classic published in 1835 by Rev. Lyman Beecher, European m onarchs deliberately flooded the United States with docile immigrants who, dominated by their priests, w ere virtually soldiers in a foreign army. The creators o f public school system s in the antebellum era usu­ ally conflated m orality, patriotism , and Protestantism . The King Jam es B ible was used in opening exercises and som etim es served as a textbook. Catholics protested that their children should be allowed to use the Douay Bible and requested public funds for their own schools. Som etim es they secured considerate treatm ent for Catholic pupils in Protestant districts, local control in C atholic neighbor­ hoods, and state funds for their own academ ies. U sually they were thwarted by countercam paigns to save the classroom and state trea­ sury from “popery.” M oreover, the creation o f tw o hundred Catholic academ ies by 1840 reinforced Protestant fears that the church in­ tended to conquer the W est. Anti-C atholic sentim ent som etim es went beyond words. In 1834 solid citizens burned an U rsuline convent outside Boston. That sam e year a m ob drove Irish Catholic workm en from New Ham pshire. In Philadelphia a dispute over B ible reading in public schools exacer­ bated conflicts between unskilled Irish im m igrants and evangelical artisans. R iots in July 1844 left tw o churches destroyed and tw elve persons dead. A ssaults on priests and Catholic laym en were legion throughout the 1830s and 1840s. In C alifornia harassm ent forced H ispanice from the gold fields. Although attacks on Catholics were less likely to receive official sanction than attacks on M ormons, m ilitia in Philadelphia sacked churches or stood aside w hile others did so. Catholics answered their foes in print, debated them in public, and heckled, slugged, and som etim es killed them . Bishops in council form ally repudiated political m eddling for them selves and urged C atholics to refute nativist “babbling” by obeying the law. John


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice H ughes, the m ilitant archbishop o f New York, cultivated both W higs and Democrats, accused Protestant clergy o f denouncing Cath­ olics in order to “extort” m oney from gullible audiences, and rallied arm ed parishioners to protect his churches. C atholic officials som e­ tim es banned nativist m eetings; a handful o f priests publicly burned Protestant Bibles. W aging interm ittent war, urban Protestant and C atholic gangs were less interested in theology than in wages, self­ esteem , and tu rf The late 1840s brought a partial rem ission o f anti-C atholic senti­ m ent, partly because deven hundred C atholics served in the M exi­ can War. During the 1860s anti-Catholic acts spread again, prom pted by increased C atholic im m igration, an econom ic recession, a general decline o f political civility, and blunders com m itted by church lead­ ers. No m ore tolerant than his evangelical enem ies, Bishop Hughes in 1850 proclaim ed the “decline o f Protestantism .” W hen Pope Pius DC dispatched Bishop Gaetano Bedini to Am erica in 1853 to settle controversies between laym en and clergy over church trusteeship, the visit drew attention not only to the volatile issue o f parish control, but also to the question o f Vatican authority. Dubbed the “bloody butcher o f Bologna,” where he had served as governor, Be­ dini was physically attacked in W heeling and nearly shot in B alti­ m ore. Elsewhere during the 1850s, m obs burned a dozen Catholic churches, beat priests, and sank into the Potom ac R iver the m arble block donated by Pope Pius DC for the W ashington M onum ent Significantly, the 1850s produced a national political m ovem ent centered on opposition to Catholicism : the Am erican party, or, as its m embers were generally called, the Know-Nothings. As early as the 1830s local “native Am erican” parties had won control o f several cities. M any o f their constituents later filled Know-Nothing ranks. The Know-Nothing m ovem ent began in 1853 when the Order o f the Star-Spangled Banner, energized by new recruits from lesser nativ­ ist groups, entered a m ilitant new phase and began secretly to back political candidates. M embers used secret handshakes, passwords, and rituals; pledged to vote only for native-born Protestants “with­ out regard to party predilections”; and responded to inquiries about their activities with an enigm atic “I know nothing.” Such inquiries m ounted as the order’s covert support swung many elections in 1853 and 1854. By the tim e the Know-Nothings surfaced and held a


Chapter 1 national convention as the Am erican P arly in 1856, they had already elected at least seventy m embers to Congress. The Know-Nothing party was com parable to the Anti-M asonic party a generation earlier. It flourished briefly in the m idst o f a disintegrating party system , disproportionately attracted young vot­ ers and nonvoters alienated from ordinary politics, nonetheless fell into the hands o f political professionals, left a slim legislative record, and ultim ately m erged w ith a sturdier party—-in this case, the Republicans. In several states Know-Nothing legislatures investi­ gated convents and prohibited Catholic bishops from owning church property. Catholics continued to vote despite the efforts o f KnowN othing rowdies and notable Election Day riots in S t Louis, New Orleans, and Louisville. The congressional delegation lacked the power to lim it im m igration or extend the period o f naturalization. U ltim ately the Know-Nothings divided over the issue o f slavery. M illard Fillm ore, the presidential nom inee in 1862, won only 21 percent o f the vote, running strongest in the South and border states but carrying only M aryland. In retrospect the antebellum anti-Catholic upsurge is easier to understand than the parallel crusades against M asonry and M ormonism. Hundreds o f thousands o f Catholic immigrants were chang­ ing what it m eant to be an Am erican. Since som e states allowed im m igrants to vote before their naturalization, C atholic ballots m ay have provided Dem ocratic President Franklin Pierce’s m argin o f victory in 1862. N ot only did the m idoentury papacy stand firm ly for reaction, but also a m ajority o f Am erican bishops had been bom abroad. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Protestant heirs to suspicion o f “popery” placed such facts into the om nipresent fram e­ w ork o f conspiracy. In so doing, they underestim ated the ways in which the United States was changing Catholic im m igrants. The church hierarchy—ethnically divided, understaffed, and wary o f the Vatican—could not effectively control their behavior. M ost Catholic im m igrants voted Dem ocratic because the other mayor party, the W higs, was hospitable to nativism , not because priests told them to do so. Indeed, the bishops them selves preferred the culturally con­ servative WhigB to the Dem ocrats. Jews faced no com parable persecution before the C ivil War. Im­ m igrants from Europe, who sw elled the Jewish population to one


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice hundred fifty thousand by 1860, seem ed less threatening than their Catholic counterparts partly because they were m ore prosperous. N onetheless, insensitivity to Jewish beliefs was com m onplace. Gov­ ernors alluded to Christ in Thanksgiving proclam ations and at least one treaty protected only Christian clergy abroad. Two national groups spawned by the second G reat Awakening, the Am erican Soci­ ety for Evangelizing the Jews and the Am erican Society for M eliorat­ ing the Condition o f the Jew s, tried to convert them . A long w ith Seventh Day Adventists and m ilitant freethinkers, Jews were pros­ ecuted for violating Sunday blue laws. Beyond insensitivity, notable cases o f discrim ination and prejudice also occurred. By the 1830s the infinitive “to Jew” connoted sharp dealing. Serm ons, tracts, and Bible school lessons routinely held Jew s responsible for Christ's crucifixion. Although Jews prospered in finance, none received a partnership in a gentile banking house. During the early 1800s Federalists, including John Adams and John Quincy Adam s, scorned “alien Jew” Jeffersonians. F ifty years later, Judah P. Beqjam in, senator from Louisiana, and August Belm ont, chairm an o f the Dem­ ocratic N ational Com m ittee, encountered sim ilar slurs. Any b rief account o f nativism and religious prejudice in the tum ul­ tuous antebellum era risks m aking the past look too neat. In prac­ tice, conspiratorial m otifs overlapped; for exam ple, com parisons o f Brigham Young and the Pope becam e com m onplace. D espite their interdenom inational alliances, evangelical Protestants continued to disagree about theology, church polity, and prospective converts; Seventh Day Adventists and Cam pbellites (later known as the D isci­ ples o f C hrist) faced particularly fierce opposition. Yet cooperation and even friendship som etim es transcended religious differences, especially where econom ic rivalry was minimal. Know-Nothings fared poorly in states from the old Northwest Territory where Protestants and Catholics lived in roughly equal num bers. Above all, the antebellum era shows that victim s o f prejudice in one context often practice it in another. Jam es Gordon Bennett, the Catholic editor o f the Neu; York H erald, flayed “Austrian Jew banker” August Belm ont. Representative Lewis C. Levin, the prem ier Jewish nativist, defended anti-Catholic rioters. Strained relations between Catholic and Jewish leaders worsened during the 1850s as the result o f an international controversy over Edgar M ortara, an Italian Jewish


Chapter 1 child apparently baptized in secret against his parents' wishes and forcibly raised as a Catholic. Finally, the second G reat Awakening failed to eradicate anti­ clericalism , rational religion, and m ilitant unbelief. Im pious m obs occasionally disrupted revivals. Senator Richard M. Johnson led the fight for Sunday m ail deliveiy, a governm ent service anathem a to evangelical Protestants, but nonetheless managed to win the vice­ presidency in 1836. Less fortunate, free thinker Abner Kneeland served a prison term for blasphemy. *



In general, the C ivil W ar and Reconstruction m arked no drastic transition in the history o f nativism and religious prejudice. Representative Thaddeus Stevens, an Anti-M ason turned Republi­ can, feared that the “invisible powers" o f M asonry m ight save An­ drew Johnson from im peachm ent in 1868. Although anim osity to M orm ons and Catholics declined from prewar peaks, neither faith was regarded yet as fu lly Am erican. President Abraham Lincoln ended the m ilitary occupation o f Utah, but Congress, upholding a Republican platform that paired polygam y and slavery, forbade plu­ ral m arriage in the territories. The influx o f non-M orm ons into Utah produced new clashes, which in turn prom pted renewed hostility in the East. From the 1870s to the 1890s the State Departm ent urged foreign governm ents to end em igration by “ignorant classes” drawn to MormoiÜ8m, arm y officers blam ed M ormons for Indian uprisings, and Protestant clergy condem ned Utah as the national “brothel." Congress tightened control over the territory and refused to grant statehood until 1896, six years after the M ormon Church had forbid­ den new plural m arriages. Then the House o f Representatives re­ fused to seat the polygam ous Brigham Roberts, and the Senate investigated allegations o f sub-rosa polygam y before seating monog­ am ous Reed Sm oot During the 1860s supporters o f the U nion om inously noted Pope Pius DCs tilt toward the Confederacy, m ost Know-Nothings found hom es in the Republican party, and foes o f W illiam M arcy Tweed’s Dem ocratic m achine in New York routinely conflated Catholicism and corruption. From Reconstruction through the 1890s clashes persisted over Bible reading in public schools, governm ent appropri­


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice ations to parochial schools, and denom inational education o f Am eri­ can Indians. Several states banned voting by noncitizens or vig­ orously enforced laws already on the books. Bigots w ere not the only Am ericans concerned about these issues, but even debates among responsible citizens alm ost always touched on nativist them es. In 1886 Rev. Josiah Strong published O ur Country, the prem ier nativist tract o f the late nineteenth century, which updated old m otifo to fit the social gospel. According to Strong, Catholicism prevented im m igrants from understanding representative governm ent, a system that cam e naturally to Protestants. I f these newcom ers were evangelized and assim ilated, however, Strong thought that they could help the U nited States becom e the “elect nation” o f the em erging era. Foes o f “Romanism” less com plicated than Strong revitalized ven­ erable nativist organizations or bu ilt new ones during the late 1880s. The m ost im portant group was the Am erican Protective A ssociation (APA), founded by H enry L. Bowers in 1887. APA m em bers pledged not to vote for, strike w ith, or hire Catholics if non-Catholics were available. Form er priests, ersatz nuns, and lurid tracts (including fresh editions o f the A w ful D isclosures o f “M aria Monk”) helped to spread the secret order’s nativist m essage. By early 1895 the APA had attracted one hundred thousand m em bers and m any m ore allies in proliferating patriotic societies. Although leaders o f the APA som e­ tim es suspected the Catholic church o f plotting insurrection, they were less likely than their Know-Nothing forebears to sanction vio­ lence. Compared to the 1850s, the 1890s produced few interfaith shoot-outs. But when violence did occur, recent im m igrants were once again the favorite targets. The w ar for and against the U nion heightened evangelical fervor and catalyzed a rise in anti-Sem itism . Jews served disproportionate­ ly in both arm ies, but were often accused o f profiting from the conflict rather than contributing to the fig h t In the South, som e Jew ish m erchants suffered boycotts. Judah P. Bepjam in, first Secre­ tary o f War and then Secretary o f State for the Confederacy, faced escalating anti-Sem itic abuse. The United States Congress in itially hesitated to authorize Jew ish chaplains. Senator Henry Lane Wil­ son, a founder o f the Republican party, was not alone in believing that productive citizens needed to com bat the “curbstone Jew broker.” Gen­ eral Ulysses S. Grant capped a series o f anti-Sem itic incidents in the


Chapter 1 Union officer corps when he barred “Jews as a dass” from the m ilitary department o f Tennessee in 1862. Several fam ilies were driven from their homes before President Lincoln revoked the order. Suspicion o f Jews increased during the late nineteenth century. Senator John T. M organ called one rival a “Jew dog“ in 1878. A l­ though relatively few Am ericans spoke so bluntly, m ost Christians continued to believe, as Rev. M organ D ix o f Trinity Church in New York put it, that their "judicial murder'* o f Jesus was a historical fa ct H istorical fiction, a thriving genre that included Lew Wallace’s novel, B en H ur (1880), treated Judaism as a legalistic faith inferior to Christianity. M any patricians disdained upwardly m obile Jews as the quintessential parvenus o f the G ilded A ge, and a few joined H enry Adams in fearing their im m inent hegemony. M oved by per­ sonal dislike as w ell as snobbery, Henry H ilton barred Jewish finan­ cier Joseph Seligm an from his hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1877. W idespread restrictions against Jews soon follow ed at other re­ sorts, clubs, and elite preparatory and finishing schools. Poor Jewish and gentile im m igrants clashed over job s, housing, and neighbor­ hood boundaries. E specially during the Depression o f the 1890s, conflict went beyond insults and fist fights. For exam ple, New Jersey factory workers rioted to prevent the hiring o f Jew s, and M ississippi night riders threatened Jew ish shopkeepers. M eanwhile, unsympa­ thetic Shylocks whined on stage, grotesque Jews inhabited serious fiction as w ell as potboilers, hooknosed caricatures filled illustrated m agazines, and Jewish pim ps and arsonists were favorite subjects for investigative journalists. The dissem ination o f unflattering stereotypes and the widespread practice o f social discrim ination m arked a new phase in Am erican anti-Sem itism . Yet the late-nineteenth-century shift in m ood should not be exaggerated. H ilton’s ban on Jews elicited condem nation as w ell as em ulation. Caricatures ranged from calum ny to kidding. Some m agazines both m ocked the im m igrants’ im perfect adaptation to Am erican ways and condem ned anti-Sem itic outbreaks abroad. Indeed, while explicitly anti-Sem itic movements gained large French and German follow ings during the 1880s, none arose in the United States. Edouard D rum onfs charge that Jew ish conspirators con­ trolled the French governm ent helped bring down a prim e m inister,


The Complexity ofAmericanReligiousPrejudice but an Am ericanization o f this argum ent, The O riginal M ister Ja­ cobs, published in 1888 by Ifelem achus Tim ayenis, a Greek im m igr­ ant, attracted slight attention. In short, m ost Am ericans continued to hold m ixed feelings about Jews. As the B oston D ranscript m used, I t is strange that a nation [w ith] so many good traits should be so obnoxious.* N ativism and religious prejudice rem ained entwined with politics in the decades after the C ivil War. R epublicans could not resist tem ptations to ally quietly w ith foes o f “popery.” President Ruth­ erford B. Hayes appointed Jam es W igginton Thom pson, an antiC atholic polem icist, as Secretary o f the Navy. Although Jam es G. B laine, the Republican presidential nom inee in 1884, vowed never to criticize the religion o f his Catholic m other, a Protestant supporter’s denunciation o f the Dem ocrats as the party o f “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion” cost Irish-Am erican votes and contributed to Blaine’s defeat by Grover Cleveland. Cleveland’s victory, repeated in 1892, increased Protestant fears o f im m igrant voters and Catholic clerics. One B aptist w riter surm ised that a direct telephone line now linked Cardinal Jam es Gibbons, archbishop o f Baltim ore, w ith the W hite House. The APA dominated Republican politics in several states. Leaders o f the insurgent People’s party, founded in 1892, pointedly repudiated the APA, but were less zealous in guarding against antiJewish innuendo in their rhetoric. For exam ple, Tbm W atson, the Populist floor leader in the House o f Representatives, linked the Rothschild banking firm with President Cleveland’s disastrous eco­ nom ic policies and charged Dem ocrats with capitulation to “red-eyed Jew ish m illionaires.” Yet P opulists in general w ere no m ore prone ^O anti-Sem itism th a n ntW r Amnrif»nna p n H a iirh ro fo ro n ra a co m f prised a m inor part o f their vocabulary. ^TiUiam Jennings Bryan, the D em ocj'filli'-Popullul presidential candidate in 1896, shunned antiCatholic and anti-Sem itic appeals in his cam paign. Bryan lost to W illiam McKinley, the Republican nominee, who successfully courted both APA members and Catholic Dem ocrats. *



Between 1880 and 1930 the U nited States accepted roughly tw enty-seven m illion im m igrants, m ost o f them Catholics and Jews from Eastern and Southern Europe. Although references to papal


Chapter 1 conspiracies and Christ’s crucifixion persisted in nativist rhetoric, racial and econom ic m otifs becam e increasingly prom inent The “new im m igration” consisted o f “beaten men from beaten races,” as F rancis W alker, president o f the M assachusetts Institute o f Tech­ nology, sum m arized the em erging orthodoxy in the 1890s. W hile Josiah Strong worried that C atholics would escape church discipline and rush into radicalism , Terence Powderly, the C atholic president o f the Knights o f Labor, feared that “foreign serfs” would depress wages. N either fear was entirely groundless. Em ployers opposed restrictions on im m igration and played ethnic groups against each other. Radical Irish Catholic coal m iners took up arm s against W elsh Protestant m ine owners in Pennsylvania. The patrician organizers o f the Im m igration R estriction League, less concerned with cheap labor than with the preservation o f “Anglo-Saxon” culture, cam ­ paigned to bar illiterate im m igrants. W hile Brahm ins and biologists sought such legislation, others took direct action in the name o f Anglo-Saxon purity. The leader o f a New Orleans mob that lynched eleven Italian prisoners in 1891 regarded his victim s as “so many reptiles.” Yet Italians, often called the Chinese o f Europe, fared better than the Chinese them selves. Follow ing decades o f W est Coast agitation fueled by returning m issionaries’ denunciations o f “heathen” practices, Congress curbed Chinese entry in 1882 and then virtually barred it in 1892. Although broadly Protestant values rem ained dom inant at the turn o f the century, a m ajority o f Am ericans still belonged to no church. Indeed, a significant m inority o f Protestants drifted toward casual agnosticism ; som e im m igrant groups, notably the Czechs, strengthened the ranks o f free thinkers; and m ilitant agnostics like Robert G. Ingersoll denounced religion as “superstition" before large audiences. Late-nineteenth-centuiy revivals, intended to bolster flag­ ging Protestantism , often opened old wounds and inflicted new ones. For instance, instead o f making common cause with Mormons against Ingersoll’s “ribald infidelity,” Josiah Strong put M orm onism on his list o f national “perils.” Protestants fought am ong them selves over Darwinism , biblical criticism , and m issionary policy; in som e de­ nom inations, these controversies resulted in heresy trials. In 1908, som e orthodox churchm en pronounced W illiam Howard Taft, a Uni­ tarian who doubted Christ’s divinity, unfit for the presidency. Despite


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice their intram ural disputes, Protestant theological liberals and con­ servatives generally shared antipathy to Christian Science, Pentecostahsm, the International Bible Students’ Association (later known as Jehovah’s W itnesses), and other faiths spawned by the spiritual crisis o f the late nineteenth century. The tw o decades following the critical election o f 1896 were marked by stirrings o f reform that scholars subsum e under the label “progreesivism .” A few progressives espoused cultural pluralism . By and large, however, reform continued to coexist w ith and often to rein­ force prejudice. TVanslating old concerns into fashionable term s, som e investigative journalists envisioned a conspiracy uniting M or­ m on leaders and the corporate elite. Sim ilarly, the leading antiC atholic periodical, the M enace, damned the church for thw arting trade unions as w ell as for plotting to k ill “heretics." On the W est C oast, progressives applied to Japanese im m igrants the degrading im ages and legal disabilities form erly used against the Chinese. W ith varying degrees o f insensitivity and m alice, m uckrakers, mu­ nicipal reform ers, and purity crusaders warned against knife-wielding Italians, sullen Slavs, and drunken Irish. And as the m ost prosper­ ous o f the “new im m igrants,” Jew s encountered special suspicion. W hile philo-Sem ites noted a “cousinly" affinity between thrifty Yan­ kees and successful Jew s, anti-Sem ites used this stereotype differ­ ently and attributed Jew ish prosperity to chicanery, clannishness, and crim e. In 1908 Police Com m issioner Theodore Bingham claim ed that h a lf o f New York’s crim inals were “Hebrews.” In feet, Jew s were generally underrepresented am ong lawbreakers. A fter the turn o f the century science buttressed bigotry. Typifying the relatively m ild nativism o f the 1880s, Josiah Strong had not only believed that m ost im m igrants could be assim ilated, but also ex­ pected them to help the United States fu lfill its divine destiny. By the 1910s, m ost geneticists, anthropologists, and psychologists main­ tained that “races” originating in Southern and Eastern Europe were innately inferior to the old N orthern European stock and thus were incapable o f assim ilation. The leading popularizer o f this no­ tion, M adison Grant, published The P assing o f the G reat R ace in 1916. A ccording to Grant, Sicilians and Polish Jews m ight steal “N ordic” wom en, but heredity prevented them from displaying “Nor­ dic” intelligence, courage, or idealism . Ironically, Am ericans were


Chapter 1 less tolerant on the eve o f W orld W ar I, follow ing twenty y ea n o f progressivem , than during the 1890s. Tbm W atson epitom ized this appalling transition. M oving beyond the m ild nativism o f his Popu­ list phase, W atson assailed the “parasite race” o f Jews and the ‘jackassical” Catholic religion during the 1910s. R estrictive legislation, job discrim ination, and violence resulted from the harsher m ood. Presidents Grover Cleveland, W illiam How­ ard Taft, and W oodrow W ilson vetoed bills im posing a literacy test. But as im m igration policy becam e increasingly rationalized and system atized, entrance requirem ents were tightened to exclude the “feeble m inded,” political dissidents, and those unable to pay a head tax (four dollars in 1907, a significant sum for uprooted peasants). Upwardly m obile Jews deem ed deficient in character or alien in tem peram ent bore the brunt o f discrim ination in law, m edicine, and other professions. In 1913 Harlan Fiske Stone, dean o f Colum bia Law School, asserted that “oriental” Jewish m inds betrayed a “racial tendency” to m em orize instead o f thinking creatively. Thinly veiled anti-Sem itism m arked much o f the opposition to Louis Brandeis’s confirm ation as a ju stice o f the United States Supreme Court in 1916. The m ost publicized vigilante act com m itted during the pro­ gressive era also involved a Jew, Leo Frank. Convicted in Atlanta o f a m urder he did not com m it, Frank was lynched on 17 August 1915 after his sentence had been comm uted. Tbm W atson’s denunciations o f Frank as a “satyr-faced Jew” created an atm osphere congenial to his m urderers and to other vigilantes who harassed Jews in Georgia. In Novem ber 1915 another Georgian, W illiam J. Sim m ons, founded the twentieth-century version o f the Knights o f the Ku Klux Klan. N ativist brutality m ust not obscure the continuing com plexity o f relations am ong and w ithin religious and ethnic groups. Tb a greater extent than their antebellum counterparts, post-C ivil W ar immi­ grants altered the economy, challenged social m ores, and ultim ately broadened the definition o f Am ericanism . Consequently, it is hardly surprising that spokesm en for the prevailing Protestant culture reacted w ith alarm . Indeed, many Catholic priests shared Josiah Strong’s suspicion o f their Italian, Czech, or Polish parishioners. Sim ilarly, the H ebrew Standard declared in 1894 that “thoroughly acclim ated” Am erican Jews bore no religious, social, or intellectual resem blance to “m iserable darkened Hebrews” from Eastern Eu­


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice rope. Representing the m ixed feelings o f many Am ericans, success­ ful politicians preached Anglo-Saxon superiority and derided alien influences w hile soliciting votes from non-Anglo-Saxon im m igrants. For instance, President M cKinley first accepted APA support and then placed a C atholic on the Supreme C ourt Victim s o f prejudice continued to find their own scapegoats. Denis Kearney, a gifted Catholic agitator, com bined eclectic anim osities when he accused "foreign Shylocks” o f im porting O rientals to "debauch” w hite w o­ m en. Although racism received scientific sanction and pressure m ounted to restrict im m igration, m ost Am ericans still expected im­ m igrants already landed eventually to assim ilate. W orld W ar I ultim ately encouraged religious prejudice, nativism , and especially anti-Sem itism . The war and its offspring, the Red Scare o f 1919-1920, institutionalized federal suppression o f dissent­ ers, heightened unfounded b elief in conspiracies, legitim ated vio­ lence against alleged subversives, and increased support for Prohibition and im m igration restriction. The W ilson adm inistration prosecuted religious objectors to war in general as w ell as radical protestors against the Great War in particular. Quakers and M ennonites who refused alternate service went to prison along w ith leading Jehovah’s W itnesses. German-American Lutherans were sub­ ject to federal surveillance even though their church supported the war. False rum ors, rem iniscent o f those during the C ivil War, ac­ cused Jews o f evading com bat in order to make money, and officials returning from Russia in 1919 repeated the royalist accusation that Communism was “Yiddish.” D istrust o f German-Am erican brewers eased passage o f the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead A ct. Growing hostility to im m igrants facilitated enactm ent o f the literacy test in 1917 over W ilson’s second veto. N onetheless, 600,00 im­ m igrants, one-sixth o f whom were Jew ish, arrived in 1921 during the postw ar depression. In response Congress tem porarily lim ited im m igrants from outside the W estern Hem isphere to 358,000 annu­ ally. Three years later the perm anent Johnson-Reed A ct cut the figure to roughly 154,000 apportioned according to national origins, a system that blatantly discrim inated against E astern and South­ ern European C atholics and Jew s. The National Security League, the American Protective League, and other self-designated patriotic societies preached “preparedness” during


Chapter 1 1916-1917; persecuted alleged slackers throughout the war, often with Justice Department sanction; moved on to “reds" after the arm istice; and persisted in prom oting “one hundred percent Ameri­ canism” throughout the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan never eqjoyed federal patronage but nonetheless flourished during the postwar recession. A t its peak in early 1924 the loosely organized Klan com prised at least two m illion members and perhaps as many as four m illion. The Klan included Republicans and Dem ocrats, nor­ therners and southerners, strikers and scabs, ferm ere and business­ men, con artists and zealots, genteel ladies and sadists. Support was strongest in medium-sized cities where evangelical Protestants en­ countered sizable but not overwhelming Catholic and Jewish popula­ tions. The organization paid less attention to African-Americans than had its Reconstruction ancestor. Rather, as the F iery C ron magazine explained in 1924, the Klan rallied “old stock Americans” against Jews, who “dominate the econom ic life o f the nation,” and Catholics, who “dominate the political and religious life.” Tb counteract this twin menace, Klanamen marched, flogged, and occasionally killed. Anti-Sem itism operated in three broad areas during the 1920s. F irst, discrim ination took a new turn with the adoption o f explicit quotas lim iting Jews at elite universities and professional schools. Colum bia and H arvard, for exam ple, cut their Jewish enrollm ent in half. Sim ilarly, local legal covenants barred the sale o f residences to Jew s (as w ell as to blacks and, less often, to C atholics). Such restric­ tions not only revealed snobbery and religious prejudice but also served, in the fam ous phrase o f journalist Carey M cW illiam s, as a “m ask for privilege” that hindered econom ic com petitors. Second, the tracts popularizing scientific racism focused on Eastern Euro­ pean Jew s. N ovelist Kenneth Roberts warned that these “human parasites” could not be assim ilated in W hy E urope L eaves Hom e (1923), a tract against “m ongrelization.” Third, The International Jew , a series o f articles first published in H enry Ford's newspaper, the D earborn Independent, placed Jews at the center o f a conspiracy theory as farfetched as any in Am erican history. Like Jedidiah M orse's denunciation o f an Illum inati cabal propa­ gated 130 years earlier, this com prehensive conspiracy theory cam e from abroad. Specifically, it derived from The P rotocols o f the Learned E lders o f Z ion, ostensibly the records o f the Jew ish plotters but


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice actually a fabrication concocted by Russian anti-Sem ites. Elaborat­ ing on the P rotocols' central them e that the elders m anipulated both exploitative capitalism and subversive communism to underm ine Christian civilization, Ford's sta ff added characteristic Am erican touches. Jews w ere accused o f spreading religious m odernism , fixing the 1919 W orld Series, and founding farm cooperatives to corrupt tiie heartland. The International Jew won favor am ong som e genteel anti-Sem ites as w ell as earthier Klansm en. The heightened «n otion s accom panying W orld W ar I transform ed the m ajor Protestant split into a chasm . Theological conservatives (m ost o f whom w ere known as fundam entalists after 1920) w ere victim s as w ell as purveyors o f prejudice in the heresy trials, schism s, and polem ics o f the 1920s. Theological liberals rarely understood the intricacy o f fundam entalist theology or the depth o f fundam entalist belieft in original sin, inerrant Scripture, and Jesus' im m inent re­ turn. W hen liberals charged them w ith stupidity, fundam entalists countered with allegations o f infidelity and subversion. Fundamen­ talists w ere m ore likely than liberals to hold Jews responsible for Christ’s crucifixion and to condem n Catholicism in classic term s as the scarlet whore. Baptist, M ethodist, and D isciples o f C hrist funda­ m entalists disproportionately join ed the Klan. Even so, not all fundam entalists were bigots, and fundam entalism was not the only source o f bigotry. Conservative Protestant clergy occasionally allied w ith Catholics to censor film s or condem n birth control. W illiam Jennings Bryan, the forem ost fundam entalist lay­ m an, denounced the “libelous” P rotocols. W hereas many fundamen­ talists sym pathetically interpreted Zionism as the fulfillm ent o f biblical prophecy, social gospelers often derided it as the token o f im m igrant clannishness. Even the trial o f John T. Scopes for teach­ ing evolution cannot be reduced to a sim ple battle between ignorance and learning. W hile Bryan volunteered to prosecute Scopes in order to uphold Christianity, Clarence Darrow, a m ilitant agnostic in the fashion o f his friend Robert Ingersoll, join ed the defense in order to uphold the surrogate religion o f science. Looking on, secularists like H. L. M encken, Sinclair Lewis, and Upton Sinclair portrayed funda­ m entalism as a conspiracy o f yahoos and hypocrites. R eligious and ethnic con flict was central to national politics during the 1920s. Indeed, the Dem ocrats w ere virtually disabled by


Chapter 1 divisions over Prohibition, the Ku Klux K lan, and the presidential aspirations o f Governor A lfred E. Sm ith, a “w et" Catholic cham pion o f the “new im m igration." Prohibition was not inherently n ativist Some Catholics had allied w ith the evangelical Anti-Saloon League, the lobby m ost responsible for the Eighteenth Am endm ent None­ theless, “dry" Protestants, including many League m em bers, had long associated “Romanism" with “besotted ignorance." Furthermore, Catholics disproportionately violated the Volstead A ct In 1924 the Dem ocratic convention rejected Sm ith and narrowly declined to con­ demn the Klan by name. A fter Sm ith's nom ination in 1928, the Klan denounced him as a tool o f Pope Pius X I, the “dago on the Tiber.” Bob Jones, a prom inent fundam entalist m inister, claim ed to prefer a “nigger" president M ethodist Bishop Jam es Cannon, leader o f the increasingly nativist Anti-Saloon League, condem ned Sm ith as the spokesm an for “dirty people” from the streets o f New York. Never­ theless, prejudice was confined neither to Klansm en nor to the broader com m unity o f fundam entalists. In keeping with Republican tradition, presidential candidate Herbert Hoover acquiesced in party cooperation with anti-Catholic m ilitants. The theologically liberal C hristian C entury m agazine called Smith the representative o f an “alien culture, o f a m edieval Latin m entality, o f an undem ocratic hierarchy and a foreign potentate.” Smith responded with courage, com m on sense, and naiveté. He righ tly stressed the com patibility o f Catholicism and Am ericanism , but understated the church’s par­ ticipation in politics, diplom acy, and the enforcem ent o f Victorian m orality. Religious and ethnic issues from the 1920s persisted through the G reat Depression and W orld War H. President Franklin D. Roose­ velt tem porarily healed the Dem ocratic party’s cultural wounds and created a religious coalition that included fundam entalists, social gospelere, C atholics, Jew s, and form er Klansm en. C atholics espe­ cially enjoyed unprecedented political power and legitim acy, win­ ning one-quarter o f all New Deal judicial appointm ents. For the first tim e two Catholics sat in the cabinet. Children o f the “new im m igra­ tion” helped to build the Congress o f Industrial Organizations (CIO). Catholic clergy and laym en played a m qjor role in im posing a prim production code on the film industry. M eanwhile, m ovies portrayed affable singing priests, all-Am erican athletes at C atholic colleges,


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice and fighting Irish regim ents. Perhaps the m ost significant, if per­ verse, sign o f Catholicism 's grow ing acceptance was the career o f Charles Coughlin, the “radio priest” who initially supported Roose­ velt but later turned against him and becam e the nation's m ost pow erful activist on the fiar rig h t Num erous far right agitators regarded the New Deal as a bureau­ cratic threat to A m erican individualism , scorned the CIO as a Com m unist tool, and ultim ately blam ed national problem s on an international Jew ish conspiracy; Coughlin him self began to publish the Protocola in 1938. Leaders o f the far right varied in background and attitude. Rev. Gerald B. W inrod, a fundam entalist com pared the N ational Recovery Adm inistration’s sym bol, the blue eagle, to the Satanic Beast o f Revelation, expected Zionist elders to ally w ith the A n tich rist and traced the Zionist conspiracy back to apostolic tim es via the Bavarian Illum inati. Rev. Gerald L. K. Sm ith, theolog­ ically m ore liberal than W inrod and second in notoriety to Coughlin, m ixed attacks on “New Deal Communism” w ith calls to redistribute w ealth. Am ong param ilitary groups the Silver Legion under W illiam Dudley Pelley made the m ost noise, and the Black Legion com m itted the m ost crim es per capita. Like their predecessors, the nativist groups o f the 1930s and 1940s attracted solid citizens as w ell as eccentrics. Moreover, Protestant bigots, now discerning worse threats than the Pope, increasingly cooperated with their C atholic counter­ parts in assailing Jew s, radicals, and New D ealers. N onetheless, support for far right organizations during the Depression never equaled support for the Klan alone at its peak. The Klan itse lf faded and finally declared bankruptcy in 1944. The fiar right's colorful countersubversion should not obscure less flam boyant bigotry during the Great Depression. On the contrary, the conspiratorial anti-Sem itism o f C oughlin, Sm ith, and their fel­ low s converged with m ainstream prejudice. A ccording to polls con­ ducted during H ie late 1930s, at least one-third o f the population thought Jew s too pow erful. In 1937 C hristian C entury com plained that^Jews_wHo failed to assim ilate revealed an “unw illingness to subm it . „ t o the dem ocratic process.” The nation's prem ier censor, Joseph Breen, a Catholic who headed the m otion picture industry’s Production Code Adm inistration, regarded Eastern European Jews as the “scum o f the scum o f the earth.” Econom ic discrim ination'


Chapter 1 against Jew s reached its zenith during the 1930s. A s had been the case since the progressive era, com petition between Jews and Cath­ olics, especially the urban Irish, som etim es degenerated into name­ calling, street fights, and the desecration o f synagogues. H ie Christian Front, founded in 1938, cited Coughlin’s teachings to ju s­ tify assaults on "C hrist killers." The response to these anti-Sem itic incidents by C atholic politicians, policem en, and churchm en was less than evenhanded. '"■'Catholic and Protestant leaders also allow ed harassm ent o f Je­ hovah’s W itnesses, whose refusal to salute the “graven im age” o f the Am erican flag and whose denunciations o f rival faiths as “rackets” provoked vandalism , beatings, expulsions from schools, and suspen­ sions from relief rolls. During W orld W ar II a capricious selective service system im prisoned h a lf o f the eight thousand W itnesses seeking exem ptions on the grounds o f conscience. D espite their growing influence, Catholics them selves were still not fully accepted. Ethnic groups less prosperous than the Irish—Italians, Poles, and Hungarians—encountered m ore insults and discrim ination. Protes­ tant opinion strongly condem ned President Roosevelt’s appointm ent o f a personal representative to the V atican in 1940. A ccording to a G allup poll conducted that sam e year, 38 percent o f the popula­ tion w ould not vote for an otherw ise qualified C atholic presidential nom inee. The international advance o f Nazism and debate over the U nited States’ entry into W orld W ar n increased dom estic religious ten­ sions. A boycott o f German goods begun in lSß3 by a m inority o f Jew s with slight gentile support prom pted a counter-boycott o f Jew­ ish businesses by ethnic rivals. U nlike m ost Jew ish rabbis and Protestant m inisters com m itted to the social gospel, the m ajority o f C atholic priests favored General Francisco Franco’s insurrection against the Spanish Republic. The C atholic W orld was not alone in asking why liberals appalled by German anti-Sem itism ignored the plight o f Spanish C atholics. In general, however, C hristian denom i­ nations paid scant attention to N azi persecutions. Only Quakers and U nitarians significantly aided Jew ish or gentile refugees, and far right spokesm en such as Coughlin and W inrod lauded Nazism as a bulwark against Communism. Although reputable nonintervention­ ist groups attem pted to clear their ranks o f bigots, Charles A. Lind­


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice bergh, a genteel anti-Sem ite and am ateur race theorist, em erged as the Am erica F irst Com m ittee’s forem ost spokesm an. Typically exag­ gerating Jew ish power, Lindbergh charged in Septem ber 1941 that Jew s, along with the B ritish governm ent and the R oosevelt adm inis­ tration, w ere leading the m ovem ent toward war. Ironically, m any interventionists at the State Departm ent shared his disdain for Jews. Throughout the 1930s nativist diplom ats denied visas to victim s o f Nazism , especially Jewish victim s. Fewer than thirty-tw o thousand im m igrants arrived in 1935. Roosevelt ordered a m ore generous interpretation o f the Johnson-Reed A ct, but left enforcem ent to the State Departm ent and never sought basic changes in the law. ÇDR^ believed that the refugee issue was politically explosive and that increased adm issioñ ó f Jews would further inflam e anti-Sem itism ." He was righ t'on both counts. In 1939 polls revealed that only 8_ percent o f thepopulation welcom ed m ore refugees. A s late as June 1940 A ssistant Secretary ofS ta te B reckinridge Long, a genteel anti^ Sem ite, instructed subordinates to "put every obstacle” in the path o f prospective im m igrants. By early 1943 reports o f N azi genocide had reached a skeptical, indifferent public. The R oosevelt adm inistration still made no sustained effort to save European Jew s. Indeed, the U nited States m issed opportunities involving little risk: publicizing the atrocities, pressuring Germ any through neutrals, and bom bing the concentration cam ps. C ertainly the D epression, international realpolitik, m ilitary contingencies, and preoccupation w ith Am eri­ can casualties help to explain the U nited States’ inaction. No doubt rem ains, however, that Am erican anti-Sem itism cost at least several hundred thousand lives. *



During the fifteen years after W orld W ar II celebrants o f the Am erican w ay o f life could—and did—point to much evidence o f subsiding religious prejudice, nativism , and anti-Sem itism . Gerald W inrod and Gerald L. K. Sm ith faded into obscurity; Coughlin, silenced by his bishop in 1942, prohahly nn orders from the Vatican, conducted m ass quietly in M ichigan. Although Rev. B illy Jam es H argis, the forem ost far right preacher o f the next generation, acknowledged W inrod’s influence, he neither placed Jews at the


Chapter 1 center o f his own conspiracy theories nor attracted m any adherents. George Lincoln Rockwell, who founded the Am erican N azi party in 1968, established him self as the m ost notorious adm irer o f H itler since Pelley’s prim e but, despite vigorous self-prom otion, led a negli­ gible band. M any theologically conservative Protestants m oved from strident fundam entalism to the stylish evangelism sym bolized by B illy Gra­ ham . Psychologists, anthropologists, and geneticists now discredited the cult o f Anglo-Saxon superiority that their predecessors had framed as science. M en and women tem pered by, if not quite m elted in , the m ilitary pot returned from service m ore tolerant than before the war. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the latest in a line o f presidential believers in b elief per se, m ade religious pluralism rather than “one hundred percent Am ericanism ” synonym ous w ith patriotism . “Our form o f governm ent has no sense unless it is founded on a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is,” he allegedly said in 1954. Eisenhower, m ore ecum enical than earlier presidents who had routinely proclaim ed patriotism as synonym ous with Protestantism or Christianity, broadened the Am erican way o f life to include the “Judeo-Christian tradition.” By the m id-1950s Jews had achieved a level o f acceptance accorded to Catholics in the late 1930s. Yet this acceptance had not com e easily. During the 1940s anti-Sem itic inci­ dents spread to the m ilitary, jo b discrim ination persisted, and 55 percent o f Am ericans polled still thought Jews exercised excessive influence. Late in the decade, however, several states outlaw ed em­ ploym ent discrim ination and the U .S. Suprem e Court ruled restric­ tive covenants legally invalid. In 1948 the U nited States becam e the first nation to grant de facto recognition to Israel. Film s such as C rossfire and G entlem an’jiA grsen ieiii, both released in 1947, dram a­ tized the dangers o f genteel as w ell as conspiratorial anti-Sem itism . Protestant theological conservatives increasingly accepted a philoSem itic interpretation o f Zionism. In P rotestant-C atholic-Jew (1955) W ill H erberg concluded that Protestantism , Catholicism , and Juda­ ism had becom e equally legitim ate variants o f the “comm on culture religion.” Although H erberg alluded to cultural “com petition” as w ell as to “coexistence,” he underestim ated the diversity, conflict, and preju­ dice w ithin the “triple m elting pot.” The decline in anti-Sem itism


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice probably owed as much to Jewish activism as to gentile disgust with Nazi atrocities. Genteel anti-Semitism survived sub rasa, and ethnic competition still yielded epithets. In the same year, Congress passed a resolution endorsing Zionism and enacted legislation on the treatm ent o f displaced persons that in practice discrim inated against Jews. Some elite colleges retained inform al lim its on Jewish enrollment until the 1960s. The McCarran-W alter Act o f 1952 evidenced continued suspi­ cion o f the “new immigration” and retained national origins quotas that favored “more readily assim ilable” entrants. Relations between the predominantly liberal National Council o f Churches (NCC) and the conservative National Association o f Evangelicals (NAE) rarely rose above coolness and often sank lower. Carl M clntire, a maverick Presby­ terian and president o f the fundamentalist American Council o f Chris­ tian Churches chided NAE “quislings” for cooperating with the “M arxist" NCC. Moreover, from M clntire’s fundamentalist perspective the Catholic church still looked like the scarlet whore o f Revelation. From 1945to 1960controversy centering on Catholicism often brought the “triple m elting pot” to a boil. Even more than the New Deal, the Cold War legitim ated the Catholic church. Unlike many o f their Protes­ tant counterparts, few Catholic clergy had flirted with the Popular F ront Yet this aloofness also signaled divergence from the rising cur­ rents o f cultural liberalism . Similarly, Catholic leaders campaigned against birth control in New England, derided the separation o f church and state as a “shibboleth o f doctrinaire secularism ,” and forced the removal o f the anticlerical N ation magazine from New York City schools. Doctrinaire secularists, liberal Protestants, and a few Jews joined fundamentalists and evangelicals in attacking Catholic influence and insularity. In 1948m ilitants founded Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation o f Church and State (POAU). Spokesmen for the group, led by general counsel Paul Blanshard, mixed fair criticism with cliches, pettiness, and Cold War shibboleths. For example, POAU sus­ pected nuns o f “brainwashing” Catholic children, compared Soviet and Vatican “dictatorships,” and suggested registering bishops as foreign agents under the Smith A ct In 1951 POAU, along with the NCC and NAE, successfully fought President Harry S Truman’s appointment o f an ambassador to the Vatican. Senator John F. Kennedy’s 1960 race for the presidency bore su­ perficial resemblance to Smith’s race thirty-two years earlier. Both o f


Chapter 1 their candidacies follow ed a period o f controversy concerning Cathol­ icism and politics. Both o f these Dem ocratic nom inees were opposed by som e prom inent Protestant theological liberals along w ith theo­ logical conservatives and conspiratorial bigots. W. A . C risw ell, a B aptist fundam entalist, feared the "death o f a free church and a free state” if K ennedy won in 1960; Norm an V incent P eale, the popular liberal author o f The Pow er o f P ositive Thinking (1962), w orried that "our culture is at stake.” Yet differences between the cam paigns o f 1960 and 1928 outw eighed the sim ilarities. Open discussion o f Senator Kennedy’s faith was m ore decorous, and underhanded antiCatholic slurs received no encouragem ent from his opponent, Rich­ ard M . N ixon. Shrewder than Sm ith, Kennedy conceded that some "legitim ate questions o f public policy” im pinged on religion, and he specifically repudiated aid to parochial schools along with diplom atic ties to the Vatican. The Vatican obliquely criticized Kennedy’s view s, w hile Cardinal Francis Spellm an visibly supported Nixon. Although Kennedy ran w ell am ong C atholics, he received a sm aller percent­ age o f their votes than Sm ith in 1928. W hile his own Catholicism produced a net loss o f support, he won by stressing issues unavail­ able to Sm ith: the Cold War, an econom ic recession, and an opponent named Nixon. During the fifteen years after Kennedy’s election celebrants o f rapid social change could—and did—discover much evidence that the U nited States was entering a "post-Protestant,” perhaps even a "post-C hristian,” era. The Im m igration and N ationality A ct o f 1966 abandoned national origins quotas. Even m ore than his election, John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, follow ed by the m urder o f his brother Robert five years later, discredited Catholicism as a reputa­ ble national issue. Between 1964 and 1984 five C atholics, including children o f Polish and Italian im m igrants, were nom inated for V icepresident. Even Carl M clntire m ellowed sufficiently to praise Sena­ tor Barry Goldwater’s "Rom anist” running m ate W illiam M iller in 1964. Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council that he convened further enhanced the respectability o f Catholicism . Else­ where on the religious spectrum , several form erly despised “sects” achieved the standing o f "churches,” or at least reputable positions w ithin churches. Both Protestants and C atholics welcom ed Pentecostals (som e o f whom preferred to call them selves “charism atics”).


The Complexify ofAmerican Religious Prejudice Jehovah’s W itnesses join ed the ranks o f socially acceptable conscien­ tious objectors. M orm ons, erstw hile sym bols o f treason and lechery, becam e unm atched sym bols o f patriotism and m arital fidelity. N evertheless, predictions o f a tolerant post-Protestant culture proved as unreliable as earlier announcem ents o f pluralist harmony. M ovem ents seeking African-Am erican equality generated anger as w ell as agapé. h i contrast to M artin Luther King, Jr., who preached a social gospel against prejudice, M alcolm X declared that the prob­ lem m ost people faced in the world was “how to get freedom from Christians” and asserted that Jew s had bu ilt Israel w ith m oney “taken out o f the back o f every black brother in the ghetto.” Legisla­ tion, agitation, and ju d icial opinions that widened the separation between church and state prom pted counterattacks in the name o f the sacred; the m ost controversial Suprem e Court decision, R oe v. Wade (1973), legalized alm ost all abortions. M any fundam entalists, distressed by cultural changes as w ell as grow ing sym pathy for liberal theology am ong evangelicals, quit their devout isolation and turned to televised m ilitancy. Furtherm ore, cooperation between form er religious and ethnic rivals often derived less from generous principles than from m utual enm ity tow ard third parties. Placing w hite solidarity above all else, the revived Ku Klux Klan even adm itted Italian C atholics. By the late 1970s religious issues had becom e central to national politics in ways that John F. Kennedy could not have im agined. In 1976, for the first tim e since 1896, tw o self-described born-again Christians—Jim m y C arter and G erald R. Ford—ran against each other for President. C arter defeated Ford in part because he m ore effectively m obilized evangelicals and fundam entalists. Three years later Jerry Falw ell, a Separate Baptist, founded the M oral M ajority to com bat pornography, abortion, and hom osexuality; restore prayer to the public schools; and elect political conservatives. In 1980 groups com prising a “new C hristian right” form ed part o f the coalition that placed Ronald Reagan in the W hite House. In 1984 Jesse Jackson, a black B aptist m inister, sought the Dem ocratic presidential nom ina­ tion. Follow ing published reports that Jackson had privately called Jews “Hymie8,” a rem ark for which he profusely apologized, Repub­ licans labeled Dem ocrats the party o f bigotry. Dem ocratic nom inee W alter F. M ondale countered that President Reagan would allow


Chapter 1 R everend Falw ell to nam e the next Suprem e C ourt ju stices. In 1988 Jackson m ade a second, stronger run for P resident and P at R obertson, a P entecostal preacher w ith a large television audi­ ence, sought the R epublican nom ination. By the early 1990s, abor­ tion verged on becom ing an issue as divisive as P rohibition had been during the 1920s. Now, how ever, theologically conservative P rotestants, C atholics, and Jew s coalesced against liberals in th eir own denom inations. H ie odyBsey o f American Jewry highlights the conflicting religious currents since 1960. On the one hand, anti-Semitism declined to the lowest point in m ore than a century, perhaps to the lowest point ever. During the Kennedy administration two Jews sat in the cabinet for the first time. The Second Vatican Council repudiated belief in collective Jewish guilt for Christ’s crucifixion, Catholic orders ceased praying for the conversion o f the JewB, and priests taught students about the horrors o f the Holocaust. Ebbing econom ic com petition between up­ wardly m obile Catholics and Jews improved relations on a less abstract level. Anti-Sem itism within fundamentalist and evangelical congrega­ tions sank to roughly the national average. A m ove rightward against stereotype by prominent Jews, analogous to the development o f a Catholic left, enhanced the image o f Jewish Americanness. On the other hand, Jews still faced greater distrust than any other group associated with the “new im m igration.” Though plausible estim ates vary, as many as twenty thousand Am ericans belonged to the Aryan N ations, the Order, Posse Com itatus, and com parable jm o-N azi organizations in 1990. These groups, which appealed espe­ cially to western farm ers hard hit by an agricuTturaTreöession, assailed the “Zionist occupation governm ent” in Washington* distrib­ uted The International Jew along w ith other classic anti*Sem itic tracts, and found their usable past in the actiyitieaii£iifitti® aLincobi Rockwell, Gerald L. KT Sm ith, and W illiam Dudley Pelley. M any o f them prom oted a version o f “A nglo-Israelite” theglggyjn-w hich Je­ sus was claim ed as an Aryan and w hite Christians were celebrated as God’s chosen people. There sects showed greater enthusiasm for H itler than had m ost o f their far right antecedents in the 1930s. T heir m embers were also less law abiding. During the 1980s, zeal­ ous neo-N azis counterfeited currency, m urdered foes, and provoked fatal shootouts with federal agents.


The Complexity ofAmerican Religious Prejudice In f^ 1Q79°i HHHK nTtH Q«ir1y 1QQOfl, flffin the 1930s. flamboyant fa r right agitators obscured laaa dram atic butjjltim a tely m ore sig^ nificant expressions o f religious prejudice* A dolescent vandals still defacedsynagogues more often than churches. Legitim ate disagree­ m ents between Jew s and non-Jews about m ixed m arriage, conver­ sion, affirm ative action, and M iddle East policy som etim es slid into insensitivity or outright bigotry. During the W atergate scandal, Pres­ ident Richard M. Nixon told aides that JewB in particular controled the arts, m obilized the left, and plotted news leaks to destroy his adm inistration. In 1975 General George Brown, Chairm an o f the Joint Chiefs o f Staff, declared that Jew s controlled finance and the m ass m edia. Later in the decade polls showed that 8 percent o f Am ericans thought Jews too powerful and 25 percent considered them m ore loyal to Israel than to the U nited States. In 1980 Rev. B ailey Sm ith, president o f the Southern B aptist Convention, la­ m ented Jew ish estrangem ent from Jesus and publicly doubted that God heard Jew ish prayers, a position he later recanted. A ccording to som e fundam entalist critics, the portrayal o f an erotic Jesus in the film The L ast Tem ptation o f C hrist (1988) could be explained by Jew ish dom ination o f H ollywood. And far right activists shrewd enough to tone down their overt anti-Sem itism found a place w ithin the political m ainstream . David Duke, a form er grand dragon o f the Ku Klux Klan who retained neo-N azi ties, was elected to the Louisi­ ana legislature in 1989; the next year he received 44 percent o f the total vote—and a m ajority o f votes cast by whites—as a candidate for the U nited States Senate. Like the w hite m ajority, the African-Am erican m inority had long viewed J cwb^as^ C h rist killers” and exaggerated their econom ic power. Som e blacks also envied the Jewish comm unity’s achieveinent o f success and solidarity. Starting in the late 1950s, com peti­ tion between blacks and Jews for w hite-collar jobs and political influence, rem iniscent o f earlier rivalry between Irish Catholics and Jew s, caused relations to deteriorate. This deterioration was aug­ m ented by black M uslim identification with Israel’s Arab adversar­ ies. In 1984 M inister Louis Farrakhan, leader o f the N ation o f Islam , deplored the Jew ish “gutter religion.” Farrakhan’s rem ark, com­ bined w ith subsequent em bellishm ents, highlighted disproportion­ ate anti-Sem itism am ong African-Am ericans. Even m any m iddle


Chapter 1 class blacks who were not them selves anti-Sem ites applauded Farrakhan as a cham pion o f black pride. The popularity o f the rap singing group Public Enemy, whose lyrics were interm ittently antiSem itic, revealed sim ilar insensitivity. In short, blacks as w ell as w hites continued to view Jew s w ith a m ixture o f adm iration and jealousy. *



Prevailing interpretations o f religious prejudice, nativism , and anti-Sem itism in the early 1990s still rely on theories developed during the 1960s and early 1960s. A t that tim e pluralist scholars such as Seymour M artin U pset, Nathan Glazer, and Richard Hofetadter attributed m ost American countersubversion to "extrem ists” moved by mental aberration or social “status anxiety.” They traced what lïôfstadter called a “paranoid style” from Jedidiah M orse to Barry Goldwater via Anti-M asonry, Populism , M cCarthyism , and “political fundam entalism .” Their w ork certainly represented an advance be­ yond the defenses o f bigotry produced by an earlier generation o f social scientists. As critics have noted for a generation, however, even sophisticated pluralist« underestim ated conspiratorial and xenophobic attitudes w ithin the cultural m ainstream , slighted economic origins o f ethnic conflict, too neatly divided villains from victims, and m issed continuities between psychological n orm ally and abnorm al­ ity. N evertheless, com m entators have applied pluralist form ulas— albeit w ith decreasing acuity—to the latest surge in im m igration, the rise o f various unorthodox religions, and the revival o f funda­ m entalist controversies dorm ant since the 1920s. By the late 1970s the “new im m igration” from Eastern and South­ ern Europe had becom e one o f several old im m igrations. The resid­ ual ethnicity o f the second and third generations was overshadowed by a large, newer im m igration, prim arily from A sia and Latin Am er­ ica. Scholars and pundits alike m istook the decline o f bigotry against Jews and Catholics for the disappearance o f nativism per se and exaggerated the hospitality extended to “Hispanice” and “A sianAmericans.” Indeed, these broad categories underscore the presump­ tion that diverse nationalities should blend into m anageable ethnic conglom erates. Like their now -celebrated predecessors, the latest im m igrants do change neighborhoods, alter the economy, and m odify


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice w hat it mann« to be an Am erican. Even when these changes are for the better, as they usually are, som e sort o f nativist response is all but inevitable. However, w ith the partial exception o f M oslem s from the M iddle East, w ho are routinely portrayed in m ass m edia as irrational and violent Isla m ic fundam entalists,” contem porary nativists typically stigm atize ethnic groups w ithout stressin g th eir religion . L ike successful Jew s in the 1910s, Asian-Am ericans are accused o f insu­ larity, aggressiveness, and an overdeveloped w ork ethic. Poor H is­ panice face derision for exhibiting the traits o f prem dustrial peasants, derision often voiced by the proud grandchildren o f preindustrial peasants. G lib criticism o f bilingual education, inflated estim ates o f illegal im m igration, and a proposed constitutional am endm ent de­ claring English the official national language also m ark political discourse. The Im m igration Reform and C ontrol A ct o f 1986, though generous in som e respects, nonetheless reflected exaggerated fears flmt iinHnflimwmtod «n rim ra, mnafc nf whom entered from Latin America, threatened Am erican culture and prosperity. On the one hand, this legislation offered am nesty to m any illegal aliens who cam e to the U nited States before 1982; on the other hand, by im posing penalties on em ployers o f illegal im m igrants, it m ade likely in­ creased discrim ination against—or at least increased hum iliation o f—all H ispanic jo b seekers. Except for occasional violent acts, hos­ tility to legal im m igrants in the early 1990s pales beside that o f the 1920s. But federal denial o f asylum to illegal im m igrants from H aiti and Central Am erica—political refugees in fact, if not in name—cost lives. Less restrictive regulations w ere issued in 1990 but their im pact rem ains unclear. Contem porary invocations o f the “Judeo-Christian tradition,” rem­ iniscent o f allusions to Christian nationhood 150 years ago, again exclude m any believers and unbelievers. In general, these ritual references signal obliviousness rather than anim osity. M oslem s and Buddhists, for instance, are even less visible now than Jew s were during the early national period. Yet m any Am ericans rem ain eager to ridicule unorthodox faiths. Judges sanction forcible “deprogram ­ m ing” o f adolescent sectarians, m edia exposés speculate on the neu­ roses o f “M oonies,” and erstw hile cultista have supplanted estranged Mormon wives on the lurid lecture circuit. Escaping Brigham Young’s


ChapterJ fate, Reverend Sun M yung M oon o f the U nification Church nonethe­ less served a prison term for an irregular use o f funds that probably would have passed w ithout prosecution, perhaps w ithout notice, in a "m ainline” denom ination. In short, a plurality o f Am ericans still adhere to a de Cacto religious establishm ent, a bland com bination o f liberal theology and m ild reform . Renewal o f the fundam entalist controversy during the past tw o decades has centered on the new C hristian right. Jerry Falw ell, the movement’s shrewdest spokesm an, dem onstrated the adaptability o f contem porary countersubversivee. U nlike m em bers o f the old Chris­ tian right o f the 1930s, Falw ell shunned anti-Sem itism and—belat­ edly—approved racial integration. In 1984 he barely protested the appointm ent o f an am bassador to the Vatican. Less typical o f the new Christian right, Rev. Jim m y Swaggart, a Pentecostal, doubted the salvation o f Catholics who had not been “bom again” and pitied anyone who felt enriched “spiritually by kissing the Pope’s ring.” W hile generally pursuing good relations w ith Jew s and C atholics, fundam entalists and evangelicals in the latest far right found new enem ies: fem inists, hom osexuals, and “secular hum anists.” Ironi­ cally, the last label, which would have fit Robert Ingersoll or Clar­ ence Darrow, describes no m qjor figure on the Am erican scene today. Coopted by m odernist theology, the com m unity o f m ilitant free­ thinkers has shrunk to insignificance. In fact, the new Christian right’s forem ost foes are at least pro form a theists. Unfortunately, however, cosm opolitan understanding o f fundam entalism has im ­ proved little since the Scopes trial. Dam ning the new Christian right as the latest “paranoid style,” m ost liberals adopt an em otionally satisfying but politically ineffective strategy. In the early 1990s, the im m ediate prospects for Am erican religious prejudice are uncertain. Some evidence suggests an ebbing o f con­ flict between religious groups. Although such conflict is not neces­ sarily nativist, it has often provided ideological nourishm ent for bigots. D espite Pat Robertson’s race for the Republican presidential nom ination, religion was discussed less during the presidential elec­ tion o f 1988 than in any cam paign since 1972. A fter Robertson’s defeat and Jerry Falw ell’s sem iretirem ent from politics, the new Christian right has lost m ost o f its clout in W ashington. A bortion m ay be the nation’s m ost divisive cultural issue since Prohibition


The Complexity ofAmericanReligious Prejudice but, unlike Prohibition, it unites conservative Catholics and Protes­ tants instead o f dividing them . S till, the proliferating predictions o f religious consensus and com­ ity rem iniscent o f the 1950s should be viewed w ith skepticism . N ot only does the new Christian right rem ain powerful on the local level, but fundam entalists are no m ore likely to disappear than they were in the 1920s. The C atholic Church's staunch opposition to abortion m ay prom pt a cosm opolitan backlash, especially if bishops criticize or »com m u n icate C atholic officials who take a prochoice position. The recent increase in anti-Sem itic incidents, though probably a blip interrupting the long-term trend toward tolerance, may signal som e­ thing w orse. Indeed, the farm ers who em braced conspiratorial antiSem itism during the agricultural recession o f the 1980s highlight an im portant lesson: a national econom ic crisis w ould »a ce rb a te reli­ gious and ethnic as w ell as racial tensions. The labels "religious prejudice,” “nativism ,” and "anti-Sem itism ” do not describe the same phenomena in the 1990s as in the 1890s, let alone the 1790s or 1690s. Students o f these subjects have uncovered, if not fu lly explained, the grand conspiratorial obsessions that have characterized these phenom ena throughout Am erican history. Now we m ust distinguish m ore carefully am ong varieties o f bigotry and also between bigotry and other conflicts o f interest or opinion. Ste­ reotypes can be flattering as w ell as derogatory, prejudices run the gam ut from transitory m isconceptions to im placable loathing, and discrim ination ranges from snobbery to genocide. W hat one Am eri­ can considers religious prejudice, a biased judgm ent based on insuf­ ficient evidence, his neighbor m ay consider a sacred duty demanded by God. U nless scholars w rite with greater care, we risk, on the one hand, ignoring prejudices couched in subtle idiom s and, on the other hand, m isinterpreting legitim ate or inevitable conflicts over eco­ nom ic, cultural, and spiritual issues.

Henry Ford and The International Jew

Social scientists and journalists have continued to exam ine Am erican anti-Sem itism , but discussion am ong historians has sub­ sided during the past two decades. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, however, the subject evoked heated exchanges, w ith controversy usually centering on the relationship between nineteenth-century agrarian radicalism and tw entieth-century "extrem ism .” The dili­ gent and som etim es passionate efforts o f m any scholars produced little agreem ent. Indeed, we are tem pted to surm ise that discussion o f Am erican anti-Sem itism passed from fashion am ong historians because the leading authorities wore them selves out in controversy.1 Returning to the subject today, we eiyoy advantages over Oscar H andlin, John Higham , Norman Pollack, and others who w rote three decades ago. Scholarship has revealed much about related topics, including the nation’s long tradition o f conspiratorial think­ ing, popular racial theories and practices, and the social psychology o f deviance. This chapter attem pts to illum inate anti-Sem itism by focusing on The International Jew, a series first published during the 1920s in H enry Ford’s newspaper, the D earborn Independent. M ore than any other literary source, these articles spread the notion that Jew s m enaced the U nited States.2 W hen, in m id-1920, w riters for the Independent attacked a puta­ tive Jewish conspiracy, they join ed a host o f citizens who had per­ ceived alien threats to Am erican virtue. From colonial tim es through

Henry Ford and The International Jew the C ivil War, warnings against sinister plots by m onarchists or Jacobins, Catholics or M asons, abolitionists or slaveholders diffused through all classes, sections, and political groups. The social and intellectual turm oil o f the late nineteenth century, w hat historian Robert W iebe calls the “search for order,* nurtured a new wave o f countersubversive theories. Populists found the em erging corporate elite m ore sinister than the slavocracy had been, w hile centrist politicians like Theodore Roosevelt countered that Populists resem ­ bled M arat and Robespierre. M any w hite Protestants agreed w ith Rev. Josiah Strong that unassim ilated im m igrants from Southern and Eastern Europe im periled “our country.*3 W orld War I accentuated both the fear o f subversion and efforts to com bat it. Am ericans were encouraged by governm ent agents like George Creel and the Com m ittee on Public Inform ation to believe that K aiser W ilhelm 's dom estic allies underm ined national security. The nation slid easily from wartim e suppression into the Red Scare. Justifying m ass arrests and deportations, A ttorney General A. M it­ chell Palm er warned in 1919 that the “sharp tongue o f revolutionary heat" licked church altars, played in school belfries, and craw led “into the sacred com ers o f the hom e.”4 The campaigns against Huns and Bolsheviks obviously encouraged the suspicious dispositions o f “one hundred percent Am ericans." For different reasons, opponents o f suppression also doubted surface expla­ nations o f social phenomena. Even before the war, reform ers had shared with W alter Lippmann the sense that “deception has become organized and strong." Journalists and progressive professors had probed beneath the surface to discover the “real” forces ruling the economy, the Senate, or the Constitutional Convention o f 1787. Appalled by the success o f wartime indoctrination, Lippmann concluded in 1922 that deceivers o f public opinion had increased their power. Similarly, the political scientist Harold Lasswell observed that “m ore people than ever" were “puzzled, uneasy or vexed by the unknown cunning which seems to have duped or degraded them.” Their minds, Lasswell m ight have added, were thus susceptible to conspiratorial explanations. In­ deed, this fram e o f mind was probably m ore common after World War I than at any tim e since before the Civil War.6 N or was it rem arkable in an overwhelm ingly C hristian nation that Jews w ere placed at the center o f one o f the m ost popular conspiracy


Chapter2 theories. The connection between Christianity and anti-Sem itism is controversial and com plex. Am ong Am erican C hristians, m ixed feel­ ings about Jews had existed since the Colonial period. Although Protestant creators o f holy comm onwealths m ight identity with Old Testament Hebrews, they also inherited a tradition that blam ed Jews for Christ’s crucifixion and num erous subsequent crim es. By the m id-18008, evangelists derided Jew ish “rebels against God’s purpose,” politicians sneered at “Judas Iscariot” Beqjam in, the Con­ federate Secretary o f State, and the New York U rnes called financier August Belm ont an “agent o f foreign Jew bankers.”6 As im m igrants poured in from Eastern Europe after the C ivil War, actors, clergym en, dim e novelists, and serious w riters routinely por­ trayed Jews as libertines, enem ies o f true religion, and cheats. Some agrarian radicals held foreign Jewish bankers responsible for tight m oney and depressions. Theologically conservative Protestants said that Jews would return to the H oly Land, possibly in alliance with the Antichrist. On a less abstract level, antagonism ranged from dem onstrations against m erchants to innuendo in the press about “obnoxious” Jewish traits. R estricted clubs and resorts signaled a deepening concern with the Jewish parvenu, an old im age put into m odern dress.7 Although historians still disagree about the extent o f anti-Sem i­ tism during the late nineteenth century, tentative conclusions are necessary in order to understand the origin o f The International Jew. In a nation com m itted to the “Am ericanization” o f im m igrants, the literary caricatures were not, as Oscar Handlin contended, generally devoid o f m alice. M oreover, the argum ent, made m ost forcefully by John Higham, that patricians, radical farm ers, and rival im m igrant groups were unusually biased probably means that scholars have studied those groups more than others. The dominant attitude among Christian Am ericans, Leonard Dinnerstein rightly concludes, was an amalgam o f “affection, curiosity, suspicion, and rejection.” Fi­ nally, com paring Am ericans and Europeans, we can say that antiSem itism in the U nited States was relatively less violent, less racist, and less central to the world view s o f those who accepted it.8 The first two decades o f the tw entieth century witnessed a shift toward greater suspicion and rejection. The lynching ofL eo Frank in 1915 was only the m ost dram atic incident in an era that m arked,


Henry Ford and The International Jew according to G eorge F redrickson, a peak o f “form alized racism .* Less benign than Josiah Strong’s O ur Country, the leading nativist tract o f an earlier generation, M adison Grant’s book, The P assing o f th e G reat R ace, rejected the “fatuous” view that Jews could be assim ­ ilated. Com parable racial stereotypes were accepted by leading pro­ gressives. Indeed, m agazines that attacked m unicipal corruption also w orried about the “Jew ish invasion.* The issues coalesced for the m uckraker Burton J. Hendrick, who denounced Jew ish theater and liquor “trusts.” Though Hendrick, Jacob R iis, and the sociologist Edward A . Ross still m ixed sym pathy with suspicion, they casually claim ed that Jew s avoided physical labor; m anipulated m oney with­ out engaging in “basic production*; valued profit m ore than life itself; destroyed ethical standards in business, law, and m edicine; prom oted prostitution am ong gentile women; intim idated the press; and “overwhelm ed” Congress w ith lies during debates on im m igra­ tion restriction.9 A fter W orld War I, hostility toward Jews escalated, operating in three overlapping areas. First, “polite* anti-Sem ites, including Pres­ ident A . Lawrence Low ell o f Harvard, restricted adm ission to clubs, resorts, universities, and the professions. Second, supported by m any leading psychologiste, such popularizers as Lothrop Stoddard and Kenneth Roberts spread the Anglo-Saxon cult to a wide audi­ ence. Third, com m entators and m embers o f Congress increasingly associated Jews with radicalism in general and Communism in particular. For exam ple, Dr. George A. Sim ons, a form er m issionary in Russia, told a Senate com m ittee that the “so-called Bolshevik m ovement” was “Yiddish.” Sim ons’s allegations, which particularly im pressed Senator Knute N elson, were largely endorsed by other w itnesses, including a Northwestern U niversity professor, a Com­ m erce Department agent, two representatives o f National City Bank, a YM CA official and vice counsel in Petrograd, and several Russian ém igrés.10 Tb Sim ons, “Yiddish” Bolshevism seem ed to “dovetail* w ith the plot outlined in The P rotocols o f th e Learned E lders o f Z ion. In this notorious forgery created by Russian royalists at the turn o f the century, a leader o f a secret Jew ish w orld governm ent allegedly explained the plot to destroy Christian civilization. For alm ost two thousand years, the Elders had been “splitting society by ideas”


Chapters w hile m anipulating econom ic and political power. C urrently they popularized Darwinism , M arxism , “N ietzsche-ism ” and other antiC hristian doctrines, underm ined clergy and corrupted governm ents, and arranged w ars that w ould profit Jew s w hile killing gentiles. Above all, the conspirators controlled both the m echanism s o f capi­ talism and the radical m ovem ents pretending to offer alternatives.11 C zar N icholas n and his anti-Sem itic protégés, known as the U nion o f Russian Peoples or Black Hundreds, used the Protocola to stir pogrom s, but the forgery reached its w idest audience after the Rom anovs had folien. D uring the Russian civil war, W hite com ­ m anders distributed copies to their troops. Alm ost im m ediately, ém igrés and returning foreigners such as Sim ons brought the P roto­ cols to the outside w orld. During 1918-1919, as references to “Yid­ dish” Bolshevism reached the press and congressional hearings, translations were offered to Am erican m ilitary and civilian leaders, including President W oodrow W ilson. No one worked harder to dis­ sem inate the P rotocols than Boris B rasol, a Russian law yer and trade representative who had belonged to the B lack Hundreds. A fter the Revolution Brasol rem ained in the United States, advised the M ilitary Intelligence D ivision o f the W ar Departm ent, and in 1920 published an edition o f the P rotocols}2 In m any respects, this m onarchist forgery was an incongruous addition to political discourse in W ilsonian Am erica. But prewar concern about the “great Jew ish invasion,” wartim e w ariness o f subversion, and continuing fear o f deception helped Am ericans to ign ore the P rotocols’ obvious antirepublicanism . M oreover, the P rotocols’ generality left room for interpolations to fit local circum ­ stances. Finally, their basic charges were “Am ericanized” and dis­ sem inated under the im prim atur o f a national hero, H enry Ford. *



A long with the nation as a w hole, H enry Ford faced a series o f crises during 1915-1920. W ith the introduction o f the M odel T in 1908, he had begun to achieve his great goal: m ass production o f a reliable, inexpensive autom obile. By the m id-1910s his decision to freeze auto design and expand production instead o f paying divi­ dends had alienated subordinates and m inority stockholders. Un­ daunted, he fired em ployees who disagreed w ith him , bought out


Henry Ford and The International Jew dissatisfied shareholders, and gained fu ll control o f the Ford M otor Com pany in 1920. Thereafter, except for his able son E dsel, he rarely encountered anyone who openly disagreed w ith him .18 On the assem bly line, however, em ployees were attracted to the Industrial W orkers o f the W orld. Tb outflank the W obblies, in 1915 Ford established the “F ive D ollar Day,” w ith the com pany “Sociolog­ ical Departm ent? determ ining which em ployees m erited the high salary. These program s m ade Ford’s national reputation as an in­ dustrial statesm an, assuring a w ide audience for anything he said or did. Increasingly he offered advice on issues unrelated to the M odel T. Rev. Sam uel S. M arquis, who headed the Sociological Departm ent for five years, believed that Ford’s ch ief am bition was to be “known as a thinker o f an original kind.” A fter denouncing the “capitalist” w ar in Europe, for instance, he chartered O scar II, the fam ous “peace ship,” to transport delegates to a conference o f neutrals. In 1916, he condem ned Am erican intervention in M exico. Two years later, drafted by President W ilson, he accepted the Dem ocratic nom­ ination for senator from M ichigan.14 None o f these projects fu lly succeeded. Inflation eroded the daily five dollars and em ployees continued to resent oppressive w orking conditions. M arquis left the Sociological Departm ent in 1920 be­ cause Ford’s paternalism had degenerated into “brutal” treatm ent o f executives and ordinary workers. N ot only was O scar II ridiculed in the press, but the pacifist passengers bickered and Ford abandoned the expedition soon after its arrival in Norway. He lost the Senate race to Truman V. Newberry by 7,500 votes, though he ran rem ark­ ably w ell for a candidate who declined to give a single speech. Indeed, paying m ore attention to his rival after the election, he financed an investigation o f cam paign expenditures that prom pted Newberry’s resignation in 1922. O pposition to the M exican interven­ tion produced the greatest harm to Ford’s reputation. W hen the C hicago Tribune responded by calling him an “ignorant idealist,” he sued for one m illion dollars. He won a judgm ent o f six cents, but Tribune law yers dem onstrated that he was ignorant o f m ost m atters unrelated to autom obiles.15 Follow ing his disastrous testim ony in the libel suit, Ford becam e, in the words o f biographer K eith Sward, “as inaccessible as the Grand Lam a.” He rem ained eager to offer w ide-ranging advice, but


Chapter2 now usually filtered opinions through Ernest G. Liebold, his secre­ tary since 1911. An am bitious m artinet, Liebold expanded his au­ thority by exploiting Ford’s quirks, such as his dislike o f paperwork and refusal to read m ost correspondence. The secretary gladly man­ aged public relations, issued statements or answered letters in Ford's nam e, and exercised power o f attorney after 1918. Indeed, he sub­ stantially controlled Ford’s access to the world outside o f D earborn.16 Tb prom ote the view s that he developed in virtual seclusion, Ford in 1919 purchased a weekly newspaper. The D earborn Independent was designed to dissem inate practical Id ea s and ideals* without distortion by the “world’s channels o f inform ation.* The Dearborn Publishing Company, moreover, looked like a fam ily enterprise. Henry Ford, his w ife Clara, and his son Edsel were respectively president, vice-president, and treasurer. Editorship o f the Independent was bestowed on E. G. Pipp, a friend o f Ford who had edited the D etroit N ew s. W illiam J. Cam eron, an intelligent but hard-drinking veteran o f the N ew s, listened to Ford's rum inations and then w rote “Mr. Ford's P age* Both m en operated under the watchful eye o f Liebold, who detested Pipp and barely tolerated Cam eron.17 D espite a prom ise on the m asthead to chronicle “neglected truth,* the Independent at first printed nothing extraordinary. It supported Prohibition, prison reform , the V ersailles Treaty, and the League o f N ations; yet these serious issues often received less attention than light stories about prom inent persons, cities, or colleges. For sixteen m onths, the newspaper did not m ention an alleged Jew ish conspir­ acy. The owner, however, had been contem plating the issue for sev­ eral years, and had considered raising it during the 1918 senatorial cam paign. A fter the election, Pipp recalled, Ford began to talk about Jew s “frequently, alm ost continuously.”18 The source o f Ford’s anim us rem ains obscure. Pipp thought that he wanted anti-Sem itic votes in a presidential race. H arry Bennett, who headed the m otor company’s Service Departm ent, a euphem ism for thugs and labor spies, said that failure to secure a loan from Jew ish bankers em bittered the automaker. Norman Hapgood, au­ thor o f the “inside story” o f The International Jew, believed that Ford blam ed Rosika Schwimmer, a Jew, for the peace ship’s “m oonshine errand.” Ford him self told Liebold and Fred Black, the Independent business manager, that Herman Bernstein, editor o f the Jew ish


Henry Ford and The International Jew Tribune, and other passengers on O sca r//h a d blam ed Jew ish finan­ ciers for the war. Liebold, who said that unspecified behavior by Jewish journalists in Norway “confirm ed” Ford’s suspicions, obvi­ ously shared and encouraged the autom aker’s Inas. Indeed, Ford’s secretary suspected Jew ish autom obile dealers o f thw arting com­ pany policy and, a generation later, still recalled The International Jew as a worthwhile enterprise. C loser to hom e, Clara Ford m ay have prom oted her husband’s bigotry. A t least she opposed Jewish m em bership in their country d u b and urged Ford to fire an execu­ tive whose w ife was h a lf Jew ish.19 Pipp acted briefly as a countervailing influence. Six m onths after buying the Independent in 1919, Ford wanted to run a series on Jew ish subversion. The editor held out for alm ost a year. In A pril 1920, he quit instead o f sanctioning the artides. The im m inent anti-Sem itic cam paign was probably not the only reason for Pipp’s departure. Liebold had been underm ining his authority and restrict­ ing access to Ford. When he resigned, Pipp join ed a form idable list o f form er em ployees who had refused to be sycophants.20 Because the office files o f the Dearborn Independent were de­ stroyed in 1963, and because other records for 1920 have disap­ peared, we m ust rely on scattered correspondence, self-serving rem iniscences, and copjecture to trace the com position o f The In ter­ national Jew. Apparently research and w riting began toward the end o f Pipp’s tenure. Investigators directed by Liebold forwarded anti-Sem itic inform ation to Dearborn, where, Pipp recalled, Ford swallowed “a l l . . . that was dished o u t” Cam eron, who succeeded Pipp as editor, did m ost o f the w riting. Initially unaware o f the P rotocola, Cam eron did little “prelim inary work” for the first article. He read “whatever was around,” including W erner Sombart’s The Jew s and M odem C apitalism . But Cameron’s later protests that he considered the articles “useless” m ust not be taken at face value. Fred Black recalled that Cameron “walked the floor” for three m onths before agreeing to w rite The International Jew . W ithin a year or tw o, however, he cam e to believe m ost o f what he w rote. In the m eantim e, along w ith other Ford em ployees, he follow ed orders.21 The first article, “The International Jew: The W orld’s Problem ,” appeared on 20 M ay 1920. Liebold had suggested the title and date o f publication in order to coincide with an attack on “greedy” Jew s by


Chapter2 Leo Franklin, a prom inent D etroit rabbi and Ford’s form er neighbor. Although the Independent prom ised further revelations, the sta ff seem s not to have planned m ore than a m onth ahead. Indeed, Black thought that Ford him self did not anticipate a sustained cam paign.22 Yet several developm ents kept the series alive until 14 January 1922. Ford, Liebold, and—eventually—Cam eron got wrapped up in their project. Ford visited the Independent alm ost every day, con­ cerning him self only with “Mr. Ford’s Page” and The International Jew. D espite their m utual hostility, Liebold and Cam eron consulted often on the series, som etim es poring over articles together until three o’clock in the m orning. C ritics provided grist for the m ill. W hen form er President Taft or colum nist Arthur Brisbane attacked The International Jew , they w ere denounced in subsequent articles as “gentile fronts." M oreover, Liebold's agents regularly supplied rum ors, clippings, and forged docum ents.23 Liebold and Cam eron later denied rum ors that they had a large sta ff o f investigators, and surviving evidence, though fragm entary, supports their recollections. Stanley W. Finch, who had becom e convinced o f Jew ish im m orality w hile w orking for the Justice De­ partm ent, found a place on the payroll. Lars Jacobson tried to show that Am erican relief officials in Europe were covertly sending Jews to the United States; Liebold urged him to consult form er K aiser W ilhelm on the “Jewish situation” in Germany, but there is no record o f a contact. From tim e to tim e, Ford dealers w ere obliged to pur­ chase docum ents or find books about Jew s.24 The m ain detective operation, located on Broad Street in New York, was m anaged by C. C. D aniels, a form er law yer for the Justice Departm ent, whose aides, including several veterans o f m ilitary intelligence, used secret identification num bers when contacting Dearborn. Norman Hapgood exaggerated only slightly when he said that the group “m uckraked everybody who was a Jew or was sus­ pected o f being a Jew.” It attracted “adventurers, detectives, crim i­ nals” and gave credence to their stories. For example, though Daniels’s brother Josephus, the Secretary o f the Navy, m ight have told them otherw ise, Ford investigators thought that President W ilson took orders from Justice Brandéis over a private telephone line. Daniels’s special concerns included Eugene M eyer, Jr., o f the Federal Reserve Board, whom he accused o f blocking Ford’s acquisition o f the nitrate


Henry Ford and The International Jew plants at M uscle Shoals, Alabam a. “A s you know,” he w rote to Liebold in 1922, “locks and bars m ake no difference to that portion o f God’s chosen people seeking to displace the stars and stripes w ith the Jew ish national flag and that calls Lenine [sic] the greatest Statesm an alive.”35 Liebold recalled that he needed few European agents because “people cam e over here and revealed their stories to us.” Russian ém igrés ultim ately provided a translation o f the P rotocols. H ere, too, slight surviving evidence obscures the story. Historian Robert Singerm an suggests that Boris B rasol, who had w ritten on Bolshevism in the Independent, provided a copy. A ccording to Liebold’s rem inis­ cences, however, Pacquita de Shishm areff, a Russian em igré mar­ ried to an Am erican soldier, provided his “first knowledge” o f the P rotocols in m id-June 1920. Liebold told Ford that Shishm areff, who is better known as M rs. L eslie Fry, possessed “fu ll and thorough knowledge o f all Jew ish operations in Europe.” W hatever the Rus­ sian source, on 10 June 1920, W. G. Enyon, a com pany em ployee in Delaware, dispatched several copies to Dearborn.38 Starting w ith the 24 July article, the P rotocols description o f an international Jew ish conspiracy provided the central thread o f The International Jew . For the next three years, Liebold expanded his contacts w ith Russian royalists and their dubious docum ents. In addition to Brasol and Fry, he consulted several o f their friends. A Ford agent in Paris paid 7,000 francs for a report by form ar Russian judge N icholas Sokoloff purporting to show that Jew ish conspirators had m urdered the Rom anovs. Liebold was im pressed and invited S okoloff to Dearborn. However, the ém igrés soon discovered that they were treated as capriciously as other Ford em ployees. W hen Sokoloff fell ill, Liebold “hustled” him out o f M ichigan, and later refused to support his widow and orphans.37 *



Although the D earborn Independent w as indebted to ém i­ grés for the P rotocols, The International Jew was not, as historian Norm an Cohn contends, “far m ore a Russo-Germ an than an Am eri­ can produ ct” The alleged m anifestations o f the “world’s forem ost problem ” coincided w ith issues that had unsettled the U nited States since the C ivil War. F irst the Independent com plained that both the


Chapter2 m onopolistic activities o f large corporations and the countervailing actions o f governm ent had produced a "steady curtailm ent” o f free­ dom . T h eories o f liberty” abounded w ithout halting the "steady tendency toward system atization.” A t the same tim e, "Public Health,” "Public Safety,” and analogous m ovem ents produced an "unaccus­ tom ed bondage to the State.”38 Second, joining the search for m oral order that intensified after World War I, the Independent condemned new styles in dross and m usic, changing sexual mores, Hollywood "lasciviousness” and the “filthy tide” sweeping ovar the theater. Sensitive to unraveling fam ily bonds, the newspaper warned that children were drawn from “natural leaders in the home, church, and school to institutionalized ‘centers’ and scientific *play spots.1” Third, the Independent addressed the issue that had grown in importance since the “endless stream” o f immigrants had begun to arrive in the 1880b: what was Americanism? These strangers, especially residents o f the “unassimilated province” known as New York, were responsible for the “mad confusion that passes in some quarters as a picture” o f the United States.29 Fourth, the Independent w orried about the problem o f determ in­ ing truth in the m odern world. Even before the anti-Sem itic cam­ paign, the newspaper had shared the prevailing fear o f deception by propaganda. People were “bom believers” who needed “deeply” to affirm som ething. But it was hard to know what to believe. The International Jew protested that man was ruled “by a whole com ­ pany o f ideas into whose authority he has not inquired at all.” Not only did he live by the “say so o f others,” but “terrific social pres­ sures” on beh alf o f “broadm indedness” discouraged probes beneath conventional wisdom . Sounding like W alter Lippmann or H arold Lassw ell, the newspaper warned that credulity was especially dan­ gerous in the current “era o f false labels.”30 The P rotocols offered a “clue to the m odem m aze.” H edging on the question o f authenticity, as Liebold did in correspondence, the Inde­ pendent said that the docum ents them selves were “com paratively unim portant.” They gave “m eaning to certain previously observed facts.” W hether or not an Elder o f Zion had actually given these lectures, it was clear that Jew s used ideas to “corrupt C ollective Opinion,” controlled finance, sponsored revolution, and were “every­ where” exercising power.31


Henry Fordand H ie International Jew Ironically, the Jew 's ancestral genius had been “spiritual rather . . . than com m ercial.” M osaic law rendered “plutocracy and pauper* ism equally im possible” am ong Israelites, but the tribes had no qualm s about exploiting outsiders. Their enslavem ent o f the Canaanites m arked the trium ph o f m aterialism . During the dispersion, a central office, a m odem version o f the Sanhedrin, directed the exploitation o f gentiles. O ver the centuries, Jew s created financial institutions to maximize profits and influence: credit, stock exchanges, governm ent loans, holding com panies, and renovation o f used mate* rials for resale. Sim ultaneously they used an atheistic “pseudoMaaomy” to spread radical dodnnee and, during the French Revotu. tkm, cam e d ose to total victory. B its o f inform ation about these m achinations passed unseen be­ fore gentile eyes. Benjam in D israeli, “a Jew who gloried in it,” dropped a hint in Conningsby. Sidonia, a character who personified the “international Jew, fu ll dress,” tells a friend that the “world is governed by very different personages from what is im agined by those who are not behind the scenes.” Since D israeli had w ritten his novel, the “hidden hand” had tightened its grip. An unidentified speaker at the sixth Zionist conference predicted the outbreak o f W orld War I, and Jew s alone profited from the con flict Surrounding the m ajor statesm en at V ersailles, “princes o f the Sem itic race” extracted “extraordinary privileges” for their people, including the prom ise o f a hom eland in Palestine.88 Propaganda about pogrom s was part o f a “deliberate program ” to overthrow the Rom anovs. Jacob S ch iff financed Japan's war against R ussia in 1905 and, at his behest, Tbkyo dissem inated revolutionary doctrines am ong prisoners o f war. A fter these tactics installed Bol­ shevism , the Elders turned to Germany, the “m ost Jew-controlled* country in the w orld—w ith the “possible exception o f the U nited States."84 Jew s influenced A m erica even before independence. Indeed, Co­ lum bus “consorted m uch” w ith them . O ver the objections o f Gov­ ernor P eter Stuyvesant, they brought slick com m ercial practices to New Am sterdam in the seventeenth century. Haym Salom on helped to finance the Revolution, but m ost Jew s “were both loyalists and rebels, as the tide turned”; som e participated in B enedict A r­ nold's treachery. The Rothschilds m ade twenty m illion dollars by


Chapter2 arranging the use o f H essian m ercenaries. F ifty years later» the fam ily's first agent arrived—August Belmont, whose "professed Chris­ tianity” The International Jew did not take seriously.“ B y the tw entieth century» as the E lder o f Zion had boasted, Jew ry m anipulated presidents. Jacob S ch iff and his henchm en forced W illiam H oward T aft to abrogate the R ussian-A m erican com m ercial treaty in 1911» thus m aking the U nited States a “crow­ bar to batter down” the czarist regim e. Jew s form ed a “solid ring* around W oodrow W ilson at the start o f h is adm inistration and m ore “swarm ed” in to W ashington after the declaration o f war. N o officia l held m ore pow er than B ernard M . Baruch» chairm an o f the W ar Industries B oard and “Jew ish high governor o f th e U nited States.”* Following this “historical” survey, The International Jew purported to docum ent the current activities o f Jew ish capitalists, radicals, and propagandists. In the econom ic sphere, the Independent distin­ guished between Jew ish “Finance” and the "creative industry” dom­ inated by gentiles. From the Rothschild fam ily on down, Jew s w ere “essentially m oney-lenders” who rarely had a "perm anent interest” in production. Rather, they seized a com m odity "at ju st the point in its passage from producer to consum er where the heaviest profit can be extracted___ ” Squeezing the "neck o f the bottle” in this way, they dom inated the grain, copper, fur, and cotton m arkets. The rising national debt was another "m easure o f our enslavem ent.” Further­ m ore, in 1913, Paul W arburg, a Germ an Jew who had em igrated "for the express purpose o f changing our financial system ,” convinced Congress to pass the Federal Reserve A ct The Federal Reserve Board helped the "hanking aristocracy” to contract the m oney supply and centralize banking.87 A s the “wonderful” P rotocols m ade clear, political pow er com ple­ m ented econom ic control. A s early as 1860, August Belm ont had chaired the Dem ocratic National Committee. Exaggerating the group’s unity, the Independent alleged that the K ehillah, a Jew ish commu­ nity council in New York that had begun to disintegrate by 1921, ruled the city through "gentile fronts” and sought to m ake the U nited States a “Jew ish country.” Bernard Baruch’s w illingness to advise diverse officials typified the Jew’s opportunistic disregard for party allegiance. A purported boom for Justice Louis D. Brandéis in

Henry Ford and H e International Jew 1920 was intended to prepare the public for a Jew ish president, “really a short step” from the Jews’ current level o f influence.88 Quoting testim ony and statistics from the Senate investigation o f Bolshevik activities, the Independent went beyond Dr. Simons’s denun­ ciation o f Yiddish “apostates.” It noted that Trotsky belonged to the Jewish “nationality” even though he spurned the religion, said that Communists sacked churches but left synagogues “untouched,” and claim ed that the soviet (like the New York Kehillah) was an adaptation o f the ancient Hebrew kahaL Communism, o f course, was a “carefully groomed investment” by Hebrew financiers. Furthermore, the eretwhile “East Sider” Trotsky had left a substantial “endowment” to the United States—a Bolshevik population larger than Russia’s. In partic­ ular, the WobbheB, International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, and Amalgamated Clothing W orkers inculcated the “Jewish idea” o f “get­ ting” without “making,” undermined craftsm anship, and threatened the “very cement” that held society together.89 Following the P rotocols’ plan to “split society by ideas,” Jews or their dupes preached red doctrines in the classroom , wrote treatises to show that depressions were “good,” and convinced publishers to keep “certain thingB out o f the public mind and [put] certain things into i t ” The Jewish “passion for misleading” others, sym bolized by their willingness to change their own names, led to the confusing “era o f false labels.” These machinations paled beside the various form s o f m oral corruption that the Independent examined at length, relating each to supposedly Jewish traits. For example, unlike the “true ring fighter” who took risks, boxer Benny Leonard boasted that he had never been scarred. Leonard and other Jews were “not sportsmen.” Rather, they exploited sports for profit, even stooping to fix the 1919 W orld Series.40 The “gigantic Jew ish liquor trust” illustrated pushiness and shod­ dy workm anship. G enteel gentiles had form erly practiced the “sci­ ence and art” o f distilling fine liquor. Am bitious Jews drove them out o f business by selling “synthetic poison” under distinguished brand nam es. The tem perance m ovem ent did not achieve total victory, the Independent said, because Jew s were exem pted from Prohibition. They w ere also the forem ost bootleggers and their propagandists still prom oted the “idea o f drink” on stage and screen.41 N o subject provoked greater anger than “Y iddish” entertain­ m ent. R ecalling the sim ple classic, “L isten to the M ocking B ird,”


Chapter2 the Independent lam ented, "The only ‘birds’ the people are encour­ aged to sing about today are ’flappers.”’ In addition to eroticism , jazz and other "m oron m usic” illustrated poor craftsm anship and Jewish responsibility for the "steady tendency toward system atization.” Creative individuals had composed the "picturesque, romantic, dean” songs o f the late nineteenth century; now "song factories” produced m elodies in bulk. M ass acceptance o f these "so-called” popular songs m erely showed that anything "can be popularized by constant repetition.”42 Sim ilarly, since 1885, an odd collection o f Jews had destroyed the theater’s "natural genius.” M ovies were so "rotten” that no one contested the case against them . The Independent added to it, how­ ever, by tracing the "psychic poison and visual filth” to the subver­ sive plot sketched in the P rotocole. A long with "m ost other useful things,” m otion pictures had been invented by gentiles. Some Chris­ tian directors like D. W. G riffith still filled the screen with "delight and joy.” However, as "usurpers” like Carl Laemmle o f Universal Studios captured the industry, film s joined m usic and the theater in sensuous decay. They caricatured Christian clergy, m ocked rural life, praised Jewish im m igrants, welcom ed radicalism , and taught m urder and safecracking. Hollywood’s degradation proved that "ori­ ental” Jews had failed to em brace the "Anglo-Saxon, the Am erican view.”42 Through four volum es, Jew ish vices appeared as the reverse o f any “Am erican view.” The dichotom ies between m aking and getting, m orality and sensuality, fair trade and chicanery, “creative labor” and exploitation, heroism and cow ardice were only the beginning. Some o f the m ost im portant differences im pinged on politics. AngloSaxons had created the press to prevent secret dom ination by any m inority, but Jew s tw isted news for their own advantage. Demo­ cratic procedures were another Anglo-Saxon inheritance; Jews “in­ stinctively” favored autocracy. One o f the “higher traits” o f “our race” fostered obliviousness to Hebrew m achinations. Eschewing conspir­ acies them selves, Anglo-Saxons neither expected them am ong other groups nor follow ed the available clues “through long and devious and darkened channels.”44 Above all, gentiles advanced by individual initiative, w hile Jews took advantage o f unprecedented “racial loyalty and solidarity.” Be­


Henry Ford and The International Jew cause success—a preem inent Am erican and “Fordian” value—could “not be attacked nor condem ned [sic]”, the Independent hesitated to criticize Jews for doing “extraordinarily” w ell. N either could it con­ cede superiority to another “race.” In essence, therefore, the newspa­ per cried foul. Because Jews took advantage o f their position as an “international nation,” it was “difficult to m easure gentile and Jew­ ish achievem ent by the sam e standard.” Jews captured the “highest places” only because they began with an unfair advantage.45 The Independent said that Jewish solidarity required “one rule for the Gentile and one for the Jews.” In fact, the newspaper itself not surprisingly held to the double standard. It condem ned acts by Jews that, if com m itted by Christians, would have been considered innoc­ uous, legitim ate, or adm irable. The wartim e ban on the German language and the fundam entalist effort to drive Darwinism from the classroom were acceptable; Jew ish objection to The M erchant o f Venice violated “Am erican principles.” George Creel’s chairm anship o f the Com m ittee on Public Inform ation did not prom pt a discussion o f Protestant traits; Carl Laemmle’s production o f The B east o f B erlin for the sam e com m ittee was a “lurid” attem pt to profit from war. Jacob SchifTs use o f dollar diplom acy on beh alf o f Russian Jews seemed sinister, efforts by E. H. Harrim an to squeeze concession from the Czar passed w ithout comm ent. Sim ilarly, Irish-Am erican agitation about the Versailles Treaty went unrem arked; Jewish con­ cern elicited com plaints about the “kosher conference.” The im­ m igrant’s w illingness to change his name was seen as evidence o f duplicity, not o f a desire to assim ilate.45 In addition to assum ing the w orst, the Independent singled out Jewish participants in any endeavor and concluded that they were acting as Jew s. But although Paul W arburg, for exam ple, did play a m qjor role in the passage o f the Federal Reserve A ct, he acted on behalf o f mcgor bankers o f all faiths.47 Although the W ar Industries Board did create a “system o f control such as the U nited States governm ent never possessed,” Chairm an Baruch believed that the general w elfare was synonym ous with capitalism , not Judaism .48 Jews m ay have been represented disproportionately in the Soviet hierarchy, but they used their positions to further M arxist ends, including the secularization o f Russian Jew ry; alm ost none o f the "Yiddish” Bolsheviks spoke Yiddish.49Jacob SchifTs objections to the


Chapter2 Russian-American commercial treaty would have meant little if out» rage among grass roots and elite gentiles had not moved three hundred members o f the House o f Representatives to agree with him.00 The disposition to single out Jews and to create a separate stan­ dard for them derived from three circum stances. First, as Irving Howe notes, Jewish im m igrants from Eastern Europe were “radi­ cally different” from the dom inant Protestant culture. The Indepen­ dent was incensed by this lack o f “conform ity” to the nation’s “determ ining ideals and ideas”; the recent arrivals seem ed to think that the United States was “not any definite thing yet.”01 Second, as John Higham argues, Jews attracted special attention because they were relatively m ore successful—and thus m ore visible—than other groups in the “new im m igration.”02 Third, despite professed indifference to Jew ish religious practices, the Independent supposed that acceptance o f the nation’s ideals m eant acquiescence in its “predom inant Christian character.” Jews, however, w ere determ ined “to wipe out o f public life” eveiy Christian reference. Their “im pertinent interferences” included contem pt for Sunday blue laws and protests against Christm as celebrations and B ible reading in public schools. Louis M arshall, president o f the A m erican Jew ish C om m ittee, even said that the U nited States was “not a C hristian country.” Such actions by a race that had had “no hand” in building the nation naturally stirred a “whirlwind o f resentm ent.”08 From this m atter-of-fact am algam ation o f Christianity and “one hundred percent Am ericanism ,” the Independent m oved on to theol­ ogy. The transition was easy for Cam eron, who had preached occa­ sionally, w ithout benefit o f ordination, to a “people’s church” in Brooklyn, M ichigan. A ccepting the m angled history and biblical exegesis o f the A nglo-Israelite Federation, Cam eron believed that contem porary Anglo-Saxons had descended from the lost tribes o f Israel. Hence they were “chosen” to receive the blessings that God had prom ised to Abraham’s progeny. But this divine choice o f Israel did not extend to Judea, or to the Jewish offspring o f the two southern tribes. On the contrary, A nglo-Israelites w ere often hostile to contem porary Jews.04 Fred Black speculated that Cam eron’s Anglo-Israelism had pre­ pared him to accept conspiratorial anti-Sem itism . Certainly the


Henry Ford and The International Jew editor’s faith gave a peculiar tw ist to the discussion o f religion in The International Jew . C iting the P rotocols’ injunction to underm ine the clergy, the Independent blam ed Jews for biblical criticism and “lib­ eral” Protestantism , a typically m islabeled doctrine that reduced Jesus to a “well-m eaning but w holly m istaken Jew ish proph et” Discrim inating between Israel and the rebellious Judeans, the weekly said that Jesus was not Jew ish in the m odem sense o f the word. N either was M oses or any disciple—except Judas Iscariot. Funda­ m entalists also read the Bible through “Jewish spectacles” when they confused m odem H ebrews w ith God’s chosen people. N ot only did Jew s reject C hrist, but they abandoned the Old Testam ent in favor o f the Talmud’s “rabbinical speculation.” Instead o f fu lfillin g the prophetic prom ise o f a return to Jerusalem , as m any funda­ m entalists supposed, Zionism represented the “B olshevist spirit all over again.”“ In the broadest sense, then, the Independent presented the “Jew­ ish question” as a contest between two peoples, each supposing that God was on its side. H iere was “no idea deeper in Judaism ” than the b elief in divine election. But, the newspaper protested, the “AngloSaxon C eltic race” was the “Ruling People, chosen throughout the centuries to M aster the w orld.” Beneath the bragging, however, there lay a hint o f the insecurity that typically fueled nativism in the 1920s. On the one hand, Yankees could beat Jew s “any tim e” in a fair fight. S till, the K ehillah's “extraordinary unity” was im pressive. U npatriotic Am erican “m ongrels” and “lick spittle G entile Fronts who have no trib e . . . would be better o ff if they had one-thousandth the racial sense which the Jew possesses.”“ T he Independ en t m aintained that its pages contained “ NO AT­ TACK . . . ON THE JEWS AS JEWS” (though it was not always possible to “distinguish the group” deserving censure). O ccasionally the w eekly m ade ostentatious efforts to sound fair. It quoted adm irable (m ean­ ing unobtrusive) Jew s, adm itted that Paul W arburg’s Federal Re­ serve A ct contained “im portant im provem ents,” and recognized Bernard Baruch’s intelligence and energy. On 7 January 1922, a “candid address” to Jews urged them to recover Old Testam ent m orality and practice “social responsibility.” I f Jews stopped trying “to tw ist Am ericanism into som ething else,” they could participate w ithout objection in finance, entertainm ent, and governm ent.67


Chapter2 The newspaper’s rem edies for the “world’s forem ost problem ” com ­ bined faith in expertise, national unify, and publicity. A “scientific study o f the Jewish Question” would forestall prejudice by trans­ form ing gentile assailants and Jewish defenders “both into investi­ gators.” Research by “qualified persons” would yield “society's point o f view,” which, the Independent claim ed, was the perspective taken in its pages. In the interim , to com bat Jewish adulteration o f prod­ ucts, a consum er m ovement should “educate people in the art o f buying.” M ost im portant, “clear publicity” m ust be the “ch ief wea­ pon” against the Hebrew cabal. Their program would then be “checked the moment it is perceived and identified.” Russia, Germany, and England had failed to solve the “Jewish Question,” but the United States would succeed—without violence.5* W hile new installm ents o f The International Jew continued to unroll in its pages, the Independent collected in book form m ost o f the articles that had already appeared; som etim es 200,000 copies were printed in a single edition. The sta ff sent com plim entary vol­ um es to locally influential citizens, especially clergym en, bankers, and stockbrokers.8* Tb supplem ent The International Jew, the Independent ran “Jew­ ish W orld N otes.” This regular feature charged that Madame Curie was treated less w ell in New York than the spurious Jew ish scientist A lbert E instein, chided evangelist B illy Sunday for ignorance o f the E lders' conspiracy, derided Zionist im m igration to P alestine, and feared that President-elect W arren G. Harding, like his prede­ cessors, was falling under Jew ish influence. The Independent also kept up persistent attacks on alcohol, tobacco, m ovies, com ic books, jazz, W obblies, Soviets, and immigration. Simultaneously looking to Ford’s financial interests, editor Cam eron prom oted highway con­ struction, opposed federal aid to railroads, and looked greedily to­ ward M uscle Shoals. In 1922, as Ford began to covet the presidency, his new spaper du tifully em phasized the inadequacy o f other pos­ sible nom inees.00 Yet the Independent had not becom e m erely a com pendium o f anti-Sem itism and other Ford causes. The paper still published travelogues, W estern Am ericana, and portraits o f prom inent per­ sons. Nor were editorials uniform ly intolerant. The weekly applauded women’s suffrage, favored the appointment o f public defenders, urged


Henry Ford and H ie International Jew federal legislation to halt lynching, asked President W ilson to pardon Eugene V. D ebs, and praised H arding for doing so. O cca­ sion ally departing from its harsh nativism , the Independent said that close relatives o f prewar im m igrants should be allow ed to join them .61 W hen the sta ff forgot that Jew s were supposed to control every­ thing, the Independent contained insightful commentary. Thus read­ ers could believe astute analyses o f H arding's m ediocrity, or they could believe that he was a tool o f the “court Jew,* advertising executive A lbert D. Lasker. The treatm ent o f H arding's predecessor was even m ore perplexing. The International Jew said that “Sem itic princes” had m anipulated W ilson at Versailles; elsewhere the Inde­ pendent endorsed his diplom acy and denounced “barbaric” Senators who disagreed. W hen W ilson died in 1924, “Mr. Ford's Page” said that he would “doubtless rank with our greatest presidents.”62 *



I f the Independent had offered only a perverse m ixture o f reform , eccentricity, internationalism , and nativism , it would have attracted relatively little attention. But The International Jew was extraordinary even during what Higham called the “tribal tw enties.” Opponents m obilized quickly. The Federal Council o f Churches con­ demned the articles in December 1920. Am onth later, without specific­ ally mentioning Ford, 119 prominent Christians, including W illiam Howard Taft, Woodrow W ilson, and Cardinal W illiam O’Connell, signed “The P erils o f R acial Prejudice,” a statem ent asking gentiles to halt the “vicious propaganda” against Jews. O fficials in several cities considered censoring the Independent or rem oved it from pub­ lic libraries.63 A t first m any Jews wondered, as Louis M arshall asked, i f The International Jew had Ford’s personal “sanction.” Returning Ford’s M inn«! gift, a new sedan, his form er neighbor Rabbi Leo Franklin warned Ford that he w as in flicting harm on innocent people. Simi­ larly, Herm an B ernstein, a voyager on O scar II, appealed to the autom aker’s “humanitarian* nature. B ut even after Jew ish spokes­ m en recognized the depth o f Ford's com m itm ent to the anti-Sem itic cam paign, they disagreed on counterm easures. Follow ing an initial protest, M arshall worked behind the scenes, sponsoring Bernstein’s



rebuttal, The H istory o f a L ie, recruiting signers for T h e P eril o f R acial Prejudice," and in m id-1921 urging President H arding to intervene. Others preferred m ore m ilitant tactics. H ie A m erican H ebrew challenged Ford to abide by an im partial investigation, attorneys for the B’nai B’rith Anti-D efam ation League advocated law s against the collective libel o f groups, Yiddish newspapers re­ jected advertisem ents for Ford cars, and individual Jew s refused to buy them .64 On the other hand, journ alist W. J. A bbot expressed “sym pathy" w ith Ford’s view s and critic John J. Chapman hailed the “lucidity and good tem per* o f Volum e 2. C. M obray W hite, an “authority" on revolution fo r the N ational C ivil F ederation, urged supplem en­ tary publication o f the P rotocols. A ccording to Idebold, J. P. M organ, Jr., liked the series. The num ber o f Independent readers fluctuated w idely over short periods because Ford dealers, who w ere ordered to sell the paper, showed little enthusiasm for the task. It appears, however, that The International Jew tem porarily attracted new subscribers.86 Liebold responded to protests and praise. Agreeing w ith the Inde­ pendent that good Jew s had “nothing to fear,* he urged them to join Ford’s crusade against the worldw ide peril. B ut his supercilious tone w as hardly reassuring. He accused M arshall o f sounding like a “B olshevik orator,” lectured Rabbi Franklin on the im portance o f principles, and generally praised the newspaper’s reliance on “actual facts." Conversely, he thanked M ends o f The International Jew and encouraged their efforts, tellin g C. M obray W hite, for exam ple, that there was “quite a field" for distribution o f the P rotocols. Occasion­ ally he was forced to retreat. “Amazed” by the accusation that he had been Wilson’s Jewish “mouthpiece,” colum nist David Lawrence wrote to Ford, whom he considered a M end. A testy exchange follow ed w ith Liebold, the perennial shield, who finally said that the autom aker had “no knowledge” o f the articles relating to Lawrence.06 Indeed, consistently distancing his em ployer from The Interna­ tion al Jew , Liebold answered protests in his own name and testified in 1924 that Ford devoted his tim e to the com pany’s “num erous and com plex” operations. The Independent prom oted the sam e fiction. Because Cam eron explicitly attacked Jew s on every page except “Mr. Ford’s Page,” devoted adm irers could believe that Ford was too busy


Henry Ford andThe International Jew m aking cars to supervise h is own newspaper. The strategy w as transparent, but it laid the groundwork for his face-saving retrac­ tion in 1927.87 Protected by Liebold, Ford m ay have been unaware o f the nation­ w ide protests. N evertheless, he ordered Cam eron in January 1922 to discontinue The International Jew . A ccording to Pipp, he realized that the articles hurt both com pany sales and his am orphous am bi­ tion to achieve the presidency. U pton Sinclair said that Ford backed down in order to avoid a counterattack by film m aker W illiam Fox. Scholars and associates have also attributed decisive influence to Ed8el Ford, Thom as Edison, A rthur B risbane, and President H ar­ ding (w ho dispatched an em issary to Dearborn in m id-1921).68 None o f the explanations is fully convincing. Subtle pressure by friends, family, and the W hite House m ay have moved Ford, but direct threats by Fax—or anyone else—w ould have made him m ore stubborn. Unlike his distributors, moreover, Ford ignored the shrinking m arket for M odel lb , even when the decline had nothing to do with politics. Unfortunately, Ford was no m ore able than later scholars and journal­ ists to provide an adequate rationale for his action. He offered at least three explanations. In M y L ife and Work, an autobiography composed with Samuel Crowther, he sounded practical Reports on the “Jewish Question” could cease “for the tim e” because Americans now knew enough to “grasp the key.” Speaking to the journalist A llan Benson, he struck an altruistic note. There was, he said, “too much anti-Sem itic feeling.” I f the series continued, then “something m ight happen to the Jews. I do not want any harm to com e to them.” Finally, Ford told Cameron that he needed Jews “on our side” in order to abolish the money standard that they had created. A week after The International Jew ceased on 14 January 1922, the Independent began an exposé o f money and hanking.” The pause did not m ean that Ford had begun to doubt the exis­ tence o f a Jew ish conspiracy. H e still raised the m atter in interview s. In addition, Liebold’s agents collected fresh m aterial that, Pipp warned, Ford would order into print “whenever the whim m ay strike him again.” Apparently the whim struck w ithin a year. In Novem ber 70 1922, anti-Sem itic references resurfaced in the Independent. Scholars pay sligh t attention to th is second wave even though attacks on Jew s appeared regularly un til 1926. M ost them es,



including occasional allusions to powerless “worthy" Jew s, had ap­ peared before. Instead o f an eccentric historical survey» however, the Independent now stressed current issues, such as the Dawes Plan (a “subtle schem e” to enrich the W arburgs) and the m urder trial o f Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb (p roof that judges favored rich Jew s). A fter Ford declined to seek the presidency and endorsed Calvin Coolidge in Decem ber 1923, the Independent discerned Jew­ ish influence behind Coolidge’s rivals, especially Senators Hiram Johnson and Robert LaFollette. Through the w inter and spring o f 1922-1923, the m ost vicious articles accused Arm y Captain Robert Rosenbluth o f m urdering his gentile superior, M ajor Alexander Cronkhite. Although the Arm y ruled that Cronkhite had acciden­ tally shot him self, the Independent considered the case, in which Louis M arshall and Felix W arburg aided the defense, an exam ple o f Jew ish defiance o f “Anglo-Saxon law."71 The newspaper simultaneously applauded gentiles, induding Presi­ dent Lowell o f Harvard, who showed signs o f discovering the “Jewish Q uestion." The search for kindred spirits even transcended a power­ ful grudge. W hen Ford’s old adversary, the C hicago Tribune, com ­ plained o f excessive Jew ish influence, the Independent exulted, “We no longer feel like a lone voice crying in the W ilderness.”72 Starting in A pril 1924, the Independent focused on “Jew ish Exploi­ tation o f Farm ers’ Organizations,” and on Aaron Sapiro, the alleged ch ief exploiter. A fter serving as counsel to the C alifornia m arketing bureau, Sapiro began in 1919 to organize farm cooperatives in other states. W ithin four years, he created the N ational Council o f Far­ m er’s Cooperative M arketing A ssociations, whose constituent groups represented 700,000 farm ers. Presidents H arding and Coo­ lidge, Secretary o f Commerce H erbert Hoover, form er Governor Frank O. Lowden o f Illinois, and Senator Arthur Capper (Republi­ can o f Kansas), leader o f the congressional farm bloc, encouraged Sapiro and som etim es provided substantial assistance. By 1923, however, m any cooperative associations had collapsed and enthusi­ asm began to ebb am ong farm ers. In 1926 the N ational Council quietly disbanded.73 D espite his organizational ability, legal skill, and personal magne­ tism , Sapiro’8 strategy had m any weaknesses. H e underestim ated the com plexity o f m arketing, acted hastily, appointed several inept 92

Henry Ford and H ie International Jew m anagen» and ridiculed com peting agricultural spokesm en. In the final analysis» moreover» the agricultural depression o f the 1920s was beyond his control. E fficient cooperatives provided a m eans to w ithhold crops from sale tem porarily; they could not perm anently raise prices and profits as long as w orld m arkets rem ained glutted. Probably Sapiro’s greatest m istake was to prom ise a panacea when» at best, he offered a palliative.74 B elieving that Sapiro’s Jew ish background was “incidental," Fred Black and som e other m em bers o f the Independent sta ff had wanted to concentrate on defects in his program . Once again it is hard to fix responsibility for the final anti-Sem itic em phasis. In 1927, Cam eron testified that protest letters from farm ers had prom pted the series, “Jew ish E xploitation." M ost o f the articles w ere signed by “Robert M organ,” a pseudonym for H arry H. Dunn. Dunn, who had worked for the C hristian S cience M onitor, the B oston P ost, and the H earst chain, w rote frequently for the Independent. In this instance, Cam­ eron edited Dunn’s articles and apparently w rote som e anonym ous supplem ents. Liebold later claim ed that he had tried to delete libel* ous m aterial. I f Cameron’s recollection is correct, however, Ford had urged him to shun m oderation in order to provoke a s u it78 In keeping with the Independen?* peculiar com bination o f insight and prejudice, the series m ixed sound agricultural econom ics and absurd allegations o f Jew ish conspiracy. The weekly chided coopera­ tives for tending to augm ent production in an already glutted m arket, noted Sapiro’s occasional mismanagement and exaggerated prom ises, and claim ed in January 1925 that the criticism had “nothing whatever” to do w ith his religion. But plausible analysis appeared less frequently than assertions that Sapiro rationalized agriculture in order to profit “international Jewry” generally and him self in particular. In the process, he hired “reds” to coerce grow­ ers, disrupted the Am erican Farm Bureau Federation, and manipu­ lated “G entile Fronts” (including Secretary H oover). He wanted ultim ately to unify agriculture in a “Jew ish ‘holding company.’”76 Sapiro was a natural target. Cherishing the m yth o f the sturdy Christian farm er, the Independent and its publisher assum ed that Jews entered agriculture only as greedy m iddlem en. Ford joked that he w ould pay $1,000 to anyone who brought in a Jew ish farm er “dead or alive.” M oreover, farm cooperatives fostered the “steady


Chapters trend tow ard system atization* deplored in The Internation al Jew . And Sapiro’s financial backers included tw o o f The Internation al Jew 's forem ost villains, Bernard Baruch and Eugene M eyer, Jr.77 S till the Independ en ts assault had an ironic aspect because Ford and Sapiro shared m ore com m on ground than either realized. Like Ford, Sapiro cherished farm ing aa a virtuous w ay o f life untainted by radicalism or federal planning. Furtherm ore, he too was a proud m an who resented attacks on his character. In January 1926, there­ fore, Sapiro sent a thirty-one-page letter to Ford and h is associates, dem anding a retraction o f “Jew ish E xploitation.” W hen the Indepen­ dent refused to com ply, he sued Ford and the Dearborn Publishing Company for $1 m illion in order to vindicate “m yself and m y race.”78 Sapiro’s was the third suit provoked by Ford’s anti-Sem itism . In January 1921, M orris G est had sought $6 m illion in dam ages be­ cause the Independent accused him o f producing lewd plays. Two years later Herm an B ernstein had filed a com plaint denying that he had told Ford o f an international Jew ish conspiracy. N either case cam e to trial. N or did they alter the newspaper’s course. Yet, as part o f a new look that included respectful articles on Sinclair Lew is and Sigm und Freud, after 1925 the Independent reduced its anti-Sem i­ tism to occasional sniping.79 The last extended treatm ent, “W hat About the Jew ish Question?,* appeared in M arch, 1926. A sserting that contributors had eschewed “sensational” or “arousing” m aterial, the Independent denied having been anti-Sem itic. On the contrary, by pointing to faults, it had acted as a “rather courageous friend to Jew s.” The Independent affirm ed the right o f Jews to participate in national life “on equal term s w ith others” as long as they adopted Am erican ideals. Finally, since w ise m em bers o f the “race” had com e to understand this principle, addi­ tional discussion o f Jew ish pow er was no longer necessary.80 *



“W hat About the Jew ish Question?” w as an apologia, not an apology. The Independent repudiated The International Jew only after Sapiro pressed the issue. In M arch 1927, his suit alleging 141 libels by Ford and the Dearborn Publishing Company began in U.S. D istrict Court in D etroit. Opening for the plaintiff, attorney W illiam H enry G allagher called the Independent Ford’s “m outhpiece” and


Henry Ford and The International Jew held him responsible for m alicious attacks on “Sapiro and his race.” The defense, led by Senator Jam es A. Reed, a conservative Dem ocrat from M issouri, responded that the w eekly had a “m oral duty” to expose Sapiro as a “grafter, faker, fraud, and ch ea t” The Inde­ pen d en ts discussion o f Jew s was irrelevan t Reed added, because the law did not recognize libel o f a “race”; Sapiro raised the religious issue m erely to “capitalize” on sympathy. Finally, m aking the fam il­ ia r distinction between Ford and his newspaper, Reed said that the autom aker had not read the series on Sapiro “to this blessed day.”81 On 18 M arch, G allagher called Cam eron as his first w itness. During six and a h a lf days on the stand, Cam eron was determ ined to protect his em ployer and save his job even if he had to skate on the edge o f peijury. Ford, he conceded, “dropped in from tim e to tim e,” som etim es discussing public issues “in a general way.” Yet he gave w ide latitude to the Independent staff. Cam eron m ight have “men­ tioned” the Sapiro series to him . It was m ore likely, however, that Ford had known nothing until the victim protested. W hen Cam eron tried to explain the articles at that tim e, Ford waved his hand and gave the “usual form ula: You're the editor. G et the facts. Be sure you are right.”88 G allagher prodded the w itness to say that Ford had initiated the “general series” attacking a supposed Jew ish “International ring.” Defense counsel rescued Cam eron w ith the persistent objection that “you ca n t libel a race.” G allagher countered that the Independent had “aggravated” the lib el o f Sapiro by presenting him as an ally o f Baruch, M eyer, and others m aligned in The Internation al Jew. Judge Fred S. Raym ond adm itted discussion o f specific Jew s who were Sapiro’s alleged henchm en, but overruled evidence relating to the newspaper’s broad anti-Sem itic cam paign. This restriction al­ low ed Cam eron to dodge direct answers and preserved the illusion o f F ord's aloofness. F or exam ple, w ith the possible exception o f “one or two” references to Baruch, the editor recalled no conversation w ith Ford about “any article on any Jew.” He did not add that Ford had spoken often if vaguely about Jew s and encouraged him to fill in the details. N or did he m ention that Liebold, not Ford, typically conveyed orders from the front office.88 The rival attorneys were skilled and well-m atched. Gallagher raised doubts about Cam eron’s sobriety and Ford’s intelligence. On the


Chapter2 other hand, defense objections excluded from evidence le tte n to Ford protesting inaccuracies in "Jewish Exploitation o f Farm ers’ O rganizations.” G allagher called Jam es M artin M iller, a form er Independent em ployee, to testify that Ford personally had charged Sapiro w ith m anipulating agriculture for a “bunch o f Jew s.” Asking one question to reveal that M iller had sued for back pay, Reed dism issed him : "T h afs all.” The tw o sides persistently clashed over G allagher’s effort to broaden the discussion o f anti-Sem itism . Pok­ ing fun at the defense’s “extraordinary sensitiveness” to the word “Jew,” Gallagher said that com parable “apprehension” three years earlier would have made the suit unnecessary.84 A fter Gallagher traced his client’s rise from an orphanage to em i­ nence, Reed cross-exam ined Sapiro for two bitter weeks in A pril. Counsel badgered the w itness and deliberately m ispronounced his name. Sapiro responded with a m ixture o f confidence, retaliatory sarcasm , and occasional loss o f tem per. The two wrangled over Baruch’s standing as an econom ist and Governor Lowden’s creden­ tials as a ferm er. M oving through a long list o f cooperative associa­ tions, Reed accused Sapiro o f profiteering. In language Ford m ight have chosen, Sapiro answered that m oney m eant less to him than the farm er’s w elfare.86 Although the press predicted testim ony by Baruch, Lowden, and M eyer, none o f them was called. The m ost fam ous figure in the case also avoided an appearance. A t first, Ford planned to take the stand. Then, perhaps recalling his hum iliation during the C hicago Tribune trial, he changed his m ind and w alled him self o ff from process servers. Company officials claim ed that a subpoena intended for Ford was m istakenly presented to his brother. A fter Gallagher threa­ tened to begin contem pt proceedings, Ford’s lawyers said that he would speak voluntarily. On 31 M arch, however, he was apparently the victim o f a strange accident. A Studebaker sedan forced Ford’s car o ff the road and down a fifteen-foot embankment. The automa­ ker was taken to H enry Ford H ospital, where he was treated and shielded by friendly physicians.86 Sapiro suggested that Ford had “faked” the accident, which has never been fu lly explained, because his “vanity was punctured at the collapse o f his case.” Indeed, sensing the jury’s skepticism , defense lawyers did fear the verdict. On 11 A pril using reports from som e o f


Henry Ford and H ie International Jew the fifty Ford Service agenta who prowled through the courthouse, they told Judge Raymond that a juror, M rs. Cora H ollinan, had lied during the voir dire and later was offered a bribe by a Jew who wanted to convict Ford. Because M rs. Hoffman’s vehem ent denials appeared in the press, Raymond granted a defense m otion o f m is­ trial on 21 A pril. The court scheduled a retrial for 12 Septem ber as lawyers continued to spar. Valuing Raymond’s restrictions on discus­ sion o f the “Jew ish Question,” Reed blocked Gallagher’s attem pt to change judges.87 Judge Raymond adhered to the legal fiction that the Independents attack on Jew s was largely irrelevant to the suit, but Ford him self knew better. By repudiating The International Jew, he could open the way to an out-of-court settlem ent and avoid testifying. During a m eeting on 11 M ay with Arthur Brisbane, who rem ained friendly even though the Independent had labeled him a “gentile front,” Ford m entioned his decision to close the newspaper. A t roughly the sam e tim e, he told Joseph Palm a, head o f the United States Secret Service field office in New York, that he had underestim ated the im pact o f the Jew ish series; he wanted the “w rong righted.” Serving as Ford’s em issaries, Palm a and Earl J. Davis, a form er assistant attorney general, m et secretly with Louis M arshall o f the Am erican Jew ish Com m ittee. On 9 July, Ford announced through Brisbane that “arti­ cles reflecting upon the Jews” would “never again” appear in the Independent. Liebold, Cam eron, and Edsel Ford had known nothing o f the negotiations.88 The retraction, w ritten by M arshall, allowed Ford to slip through the loophole held open since 1920 by Liebold, Cam eron, and a form i­ dable array o f lawyers. Ford said that he had failed to “keep in­ form ed” about the actions o f his newspaper. Thus he was “deeply m ortified” to leam that the Independent had printed a series based on the “gross forgeries,” the P rotocols o f Zion. “Fully aware o f the virtues o f the Jew ish People,” he begged their forgiveness, prom ised to withdraw The International Jew from circulation, and pledged “future friendship and good w ill.” M arshall considered the statem ent “hum iliating” and was surprised that Ford accepted i t 88 Sapiro and Bernstein quickly dropped their suits in return for apologies and reim bursem ent o f legal expenses. On 30 July, the charge that Sapiro had belonged to an international conspiracy was


Chapter2 form ally “withdrawn" fay the Independent; the w eekly claim ed to have accepted H arry Dunn’s articles “at face value," only later to learn o f their “inaccuracies.” Follow ing the usual strategy, the edito­ rial said that Ford had had “no personal knowledge" o f the series. Sapiro pronounced him self “entirely satisfied," evidently em braced the illusion that Ford had been “m isled,” and claim ed credit for helping a “great man get rig h t”90 *



U nfortunately the apologies o f 1927, like the rem ission o f 1922, did not m ean that Ford had “got right." He closed the Indepen­ dent on 30 Decem ber 1927 but—contrary to his lawyers’ prom ise to M arshall—kept Liebold and Cam eron, both unrepentant hi his em­ ploy. He ordered destruction o f thousands o f copies o f The Interna­ tion al Jew y e t despite entreaties by M arshall and B ernstein, barely publicized his retraction in Europe. H is subordinates intervened to halt circulation abroad only when pressed by Jewish leaders. Fur­ therm ore, Ford inform ed the M anchester G uardian in 1940 that “international Jew ish bankers” had caused W orld W ar II. A t roughly the sam e tim e, he told the nativist Gerald L. K Sm ith that he had allow ed Bennett to forge his signature on the retraction, hoped som e day to reissue The International Jew , and urged Sm ith to do so if he could not.91 Partly due to Ford’s laxity, the series continued to circulate am ong the “rabid Jew baiters” whom the Independent had professed to disdain. H istorian Norm an Cohn estim ates that The International Jew “probably did m ore than any other work to make the P rotocols world-fam ous.” The N azi youth leader Baldur von Schirach recalled the “great influence” o f the books on young Germans o f his genera­ tion. In M ein Kam pf, A dolf H itler applauded Ford's efforts. W ithin the U nited States, The Internation al Jew provided a usable past for anti-Sem ites like Sm ith, who ultim ately published an abridged edi­ tion. A s early as 1922, Norm an Hapgood angrily held Ford responsi­ ble for setting “loose a m alicious force that added fury to sim ilar forces already in existence.”92 Such anger is ju stified but insufficient. In addition, analysis o f The International Jew and its supplem ents illum inates attitudes toward Jew s as w ell as broader aspects o f our culture. F irst, the text under­


Henry Ford and The International Jew m ines the assum ption shared by w riters as diverse as H andlin, Higham , and M cW illiam s that Christian b elief and practice hardly influenced anti-Sem itism in the U nited States. The International Jew was im bued w ith Ford’s faith that the national “genius” was “Christian in the broadest sense” and destined to rem ain so. The series portrayed a dash between tw o “chosen" peoples, and Cam­ eron, the ch ief com piler, som etim es cast the conflict in term s o f A nglo-Israelite theology. Although we cannot in fer the attitudes o f a com plex society from m otifs in a single literary source, there is w arrant for paying d oser attention to the Christian roots o f Am eri­ can anti-Sem itism .” ^ Second, a reading o f The Internation al Jew prom pts yet another consideration o f the m uch-debated relationship am ong “populism ,” “progressivism ,” and anti-Sem itism . Though problem atical, the term s •populist” and “progressive” retain utility i f used w ith care. D espite their differing view s o f settlem ent houses or strikes, progressives applauded or accepted an econom y dom inated by corporations and at m ost wanted to m ake a hierarchical sodety m ore effid en t and hu­ m ane. Two decades earlier, the People’s party and its sym pathizers had raised m ore basic questions. They had doubted that the trium ph o f the “trust” w as either inevitable or beneficial. Populism appealed to poor farm ers and som e urban w orkers, whereas the various pro­ gressive coalitions drew prim arily from the m iddle and upper m iddle classes. D uring the 1890s, Populism never achieved respectabilityB efore W orld War I, progressivism becam e the catchw ord o f the day.” R ecognizing the lim its o f these broad categories, we can nonethe­ less dispute the designation o f Ford as a “populist” by Peter F. Drucker, M orton Rosenstock, A llan N evins, Frank Ernest H ill, Rich­ ard H ofotadter, Reynold W ik, and David Lewis. Anne Jardim aptly notes that Ford, the son o f a prosperous Republican untainted by agrarian radicalism , worked quietly in D etroit during the em battled 1890s. M oreover, there is no reason to suppose that Independent subscribers w ere aging veterans o f the People’s party. M ost lived in O hio, Pennsylvania, and M ichigan, states where the Populist nom i­ nee, General Jam es B. W eaver, had run poorly in 1892.” The newspaper’s presidential poll in 1920 is also revealing. O f the six leading candidates—Senator Hiram Johnson, H erbert Hoover,


Chapter2 Leonard W ood, Frank O. Lowden, President W ilson, and Secretary o f the Treasury W illiam G. M cAdoo—only M cAdoo identified in some sense with Populism and several others had specifically condem ned the People’s party. W illiam Jennings Bryan, an erstw hile Populist nom inee, ran a poor third am ong Dem ocratic prospects; Senator Robert LaFollette, a recently radicalized insurgent, received only scattered support.06 W hile Ford and Independent editor Cam eron rem ained aloof from Populism , their weekly explicitly endorsed “sane progressivism .” The adjective m ay seem inappropriate, but the general identification m akes sense. Ford contributed $36,000 to W oodrow W ilson’s cam­ paign in 1916 and was convinced by the President to run for senator tw o years later. Throughout the 1920s, he was hailed as the preem i­ nent business statesm an whose com m itm ent to efficiency, social service, and paternal labor relations prom ised industrial peace. Cer­ tainly The International Jew contained characteristic progressive them es. For exam ple, adapting a grow ing consum er movement to its anti-Sem itic ends, the Independent urged a boycott o f Jewish m er­ chants. Furtherm ore, the “Jewish Question” m ust be subjected to “scientific study” by experts.97 - The m ost striking progressive legacy was The International Jew 's assertion that “clear publicity” was an Am erican alternative to Jew­ ish disfranchisem ent or pogrom s. Richard H ofstadter observed that .progressive intellectuals, scholars and journalists alike, “confirm ed, if they did not create a fresh m ode o f criticism ” that purported to uncover “reality.” They believed that “reality” was “hidden, neglected, and o ff stage,” som ething to be dug out from under superficial explanations. Norman Hapgood shrewdly saw that Ford’s detectives “m uckraked” Jews and suspected Jews. Ford apparently shared the Independents faith in publicity. In M y L ife and W ork, he m aintained that the Jewish threat could be “controlled by m ere exposure.”08 Instead o f revealing a pernicious Populist legacy, the Indepen­ dent’s anti-Sem itic cam paigns underscore the diversity w ithin pro­ gressivism , a persuasion so diffuse that both Ford and Aaron Sapiro plausibly identified w ith i t Indeed, for historians who ponder the fate o f reform after W orld W ar I, their confrontation m ust be consid­ ered som ething m ore than a dram atic nativist episode. In addition, the battle between Sapiro and Ford, two nationally known reform -


Henry Ford and The International Jew era, sym bolizes the fragm entation o f the progressive “m ovem ent" during the 1920s.* From a narrow perspective, the historiographical debate about “pop­ ulist” anti-Sem itism concerned the number o f bigots in the People's party and related agrarian protests. Yet such pluralista as Handlin, Hofetadter, and Seym our M artin U pset were sim ultaneously mak­ ing assertions about how ideas, in this case prejudiced ideas, m oved w ithin society. A t least im plicitly, they repudiated Carey McW il­ liam s's contention that anti-Sem itism “m ust be studied from the top down and not from the bottom up." Rather, w ith varying sophistica­ tion, they m aintained that hostility to Jew s prim arily pressed up­ ward from a “populist” m ass.1* ----------------------- --------------------A fter clearing away jargon about “status anxiety," we should scarcely 1te surprised that provincials who fear social or cultural change are m ore likely than their com fortable, cosm opolitan fellow s to seek scapegoats and em brace conspiracy theories. W hile repeating this truism for three decades, however, scholars haye.sU ghtçdJhe^lite contribution to anti-Sem itic ifeetQ ijfiJJany im ages used by the Independent ttTEocument alleged Jewish failings were shared b y ^ ö F borrowed from —H arvard President A. Lawrence Low ell, Professor Edward A . Ross, novelist Kenneth Roberts, and m uckraker Burton J. H endrick. Such urbane progressives and conservatives should not be absolved o f responsibility sim ply because they rejected The In ter­ national Jew 's sweeping conspiracy theory and the Klansm an's vul­ gar agitation. M oreover, because the boundary between “polite” and conspiratorial anti-Sem itism has been porous, we m ust no longer pass over M cW illiam s’s adm onition to start investigation at the


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Third, an interpretation o f The International Jew helps to sort out “crucial differences in the variety o f things called anti-Sem itism .” 108 The Independent distinguished its answers to the “Jewish .Ques­ tion”—consum er protection, scientific study* and publicity—from vi­ olent European solutions. Ford him self claim ed only to oppose “false ideas,” called hatred o f individuals “neither Am erican nor Chris­ tian,” and rem ained personally fond o f several Jew s, including the architect A lbert Kahn, baseball player Hank Greenberg, and Rabbi Leo Franklin; he was perplexed by Franklin’s refusal o f a sedan in 1920 to protest The International Jew. These actions by Ford and his


Chapters newspaper, though eccentric or self-serving, nevertheless point to com plexities w ithin nativism during the tribal tw enties.10* A venerable nativist position, presented eloquently in Josiah Strong’s 1886 polem ic, Our Country, held that the “new im m igration,” includ­ in g Jew s, was cu ltu rally regressive and therefore m ust be taught .superior Anglo-Saxon wayB. The racial theorists who gained prom i­ nence after 1900 held that the “new im m igration,” including those whom Kenneth Roberts called “m ongolqid” Jew s, was innately infe­ rior and therefore incapable o f learning Anglo-Saxon ways. W hereas Strong suggested that “our country” m ight benefit from a blend o f “races” under Anglo-Saxon guidance, M adison Grant, the prem ier “Nordic” ideologue in 1916, insisted that assim ilation would back­ fire, producing a “m ongrel” nation. Although the doctrine o f inherent racial inferiority never fu lly superseded the earlier tradition, by the 1920s m ost nativists m ixed the two attitudes in varying proportions. F or exam ple, Ford and the Independent som etim es ascribed behav­ ior by Eastern European im m igrants to “nasty orientalism ” or “Tar­ tar” origins. M ore often, howevèr, they com plained that these Jews refused to be like Anglo-Saxons. In the final analysis, The Interna­ tion al Jew, the m qjor nativist tract o f the 1920s, was closer to Strong’s assim ilationist ethnocentrism than to Grant’s biological determ inism .104 The distinction m ay provide little com fort to victim s o f discrim ina­ tion (though in the long run they gain from it), but it does suggest that the nation’s broadly liberal tradition even affects our nativists. Hence, they are m ore likely than counterparts in Germany or France to judge ethnic targets, in this case Jew s, on the basis o f individual behavior instead o f putative genetic traits. Significantly, the Inde­ pendent did not concur in the basic prem ise o f M ein Kam pf, that all .¡Jews betrayed “definite racial characteristics.” O f course our sweep­ in g generalization about attitudes in several countries requires £ualificgtiop