Along with moral panics in American culture since the colonial era, there has been the ever recurring existential crisis about our collective identity. This has often taken the form of the pseudo-ethnic culture of WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants), the racial identity that preceded the Caucasian mythology of a general whiteness. This has overlapped with class issues, such as with the large number of poor ethnic Americans in this multicultural society. Benjamin Franklin, for example, complained about the German majority in Pennsylvania with many having refused to even learn the English language which forced the local government to publish official documents and notices in multiple languages.
The anxiety about what it meant to be ‘American’ fed into revolutionary fervor and demands for independence. It could be seen as part of the revolution of the mind that John Adams described in a letter to Thomas Jefferson. In not being accorded the full rights of Englishmen, the colonists embraced their American identity as a point of distinction and pride. In confronting this identity crisis, Thomas Paine as a working class Englishman went straight to the heart of culture and ethnicity by pointing out the inconvenient fact that many of the colonies consisted of non-English majorities, largely of German ancestry but African as well. There was no melting pot and the ethnic populations resisted assimilation, as did even African-Americans to the degree they were able. One suspects the English monarchy and aristocracy by way of the actions of Parliament secretly agreed with this argument, as they treated the colonists as second class citizens.
About the disease of moral panic, there was a particularly virulent strain of fear-mongering that began in the late 1800s and continued into the early decades of the following century — exacerbated by worsening concerns involving nostalgia, culture wars, media, diet, and health. It appeared as a political force with the Populist movement that was set ablaze with the proliferation of publications advocating liberal thought and progressive reforms, sometimes mired in racism and eugenics but at other times confronting these misguided inclinations. One such publication was the Midland Monthly Magazine, the personal project of Johnson Brigham, born in New York and later moved to Iowa where he would become the State Librarian (see Prabook and Carnegie Libraries In Iowa Project). Brigham’s magazine, available from 1893 to 1898, gave voice to local Iowan writers at a time when the state was still young — statehood was gained a half century before in 1846 and Chief Black Hawk surrendered the decade prior in 1832, still within living memory.
As with Americans in general, Iowans were seeking to invent their own identity. Consider what kind of state Iowa was, but also consider its cultural origins. The Lower Midwest, as argued by David Hackett Fischer and Colin Woodard, is a cultural extension of the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania that was part of the Mid-Atlantic region which included New York. In the colonial era, the Mid-Atlantic was the greatest concentration of diversity and Pennsylvania was specifically overflowing with Germans. Quakers established a multicultural tolerance that, combined with the laissez-faire of New York City, helped create the American Melting Pot that came to define the Midwest. Early cities in Iowa boomed with immigrants, in some cases with as much ethnic and religious diversity as the big cities like Chicago.
In Des Moines where Brigham lived, only 7% of residents identify as of English ancestry, according to the 2000 census (Statistical Atlas). I mention this in relation to one of the authors, E. W. Skinner, who was published in the Midland Monthly Magazine. Skinner lived in Sioux City that also is at 7% English ancestry (Statistical Atlas). Both cities have many Germans, but also a mix of other non-English ancestry. For example, “In the 1870s, Sioux City became both a staging point for Dakota-bound Norwegians, and a destination in itself” (Cherilyn Ann Walley, The Welsh in Iowa). This set a pattern for welcoming later immigrants. During the Second World War, German POWs felt so at home on the farms of Iowans with German ancestry that many of them decided to stay after the war. Places like Sioux City maintain a reputation of being welcoming, ranking at 96 in diversity among small cities in the United States and having the highest rate in the state of students from immigrant families. Although a majority white state, Iowa has always contained a wide array of ancestries and very little of it English nor more generally British.
After that discursive interlude, let’s get to the point. Brigham was quite liberal such as supporting suffragists. His advocacy for libraries brought him into the sphere of Andrew Carnegie, another progressive if not nearly as socially liberal. At the dedication of a Carnegie library built at Cornell College, Brigham as the State Librarian gave the address (Science Journal, Vol. XXII, No. 561, September 29, 1905, ed. by John Michels). This is amusing in relation to Skinner, also somewhere on the political left (e.g., “After Christianity, What?”, H. L. Green’s The Free Thought Magazine, March, 1895, from Vol. XIII). When Brigham was still putting out his magazine, he published a specific article by Skinner in 1896, titled “Anglo-American Union: Not Warranted by Ties of Blood”. It was a specific response to an 1893 opinion piece by Carnegie — giving large sums of money away tends to give someone the entitled sense that their opinion is of higher value. But Skinner called bullshit on Carnegie’s Anglocentric bigotry and, interestingly, he used a criticism similar to that of Paine’s, the criticism that largely justified the existence of a United States in the first place.
Inspired by the hope of the Great Rapproachement, Carnegie advocated a return to the protective and highly profitable embrace of the British Empire (with its vast military-protected trade networks, numerous port cities, abundance of natural resources, cheap foreign labor, and large numbers of prospective consumers/customers), if his aspirations were to Americanize the imperial project; he told W. T. Stead that, “We are heading straight to the Re-United States” (The Americanization of the World, 1901). He didn’t limit his dreams to a union of the United States and Britain, along with all of the other former British colonies. He wanted a racial unification of ethno-nationalism across these countries where Anglo-Saxons would be the master race ruling the world with a peace through power, a Pax Anglo-Saxony. This was motivated by Carnegie’s belief that the British and Americans were genetically and culturally the same people, based on the false assumption that most of American ancestry originated in Britain.
Yet it’s not clear that even acknowledging the largest segment of American ancestry, German, would have changed his views as that also could easily be incorporated into his views of racial supremacism. As with other early philanthropic robber barons, Carnegie was a major financial supporter of the eugenics programs in both the United States and Nazi Germany (William A. Schambra, Philanthropy’s Original Sin; & Edwin Black, North Carolina’s reparation for the dark past of American eugenics). To think of this British ancestry in terms of Anglo-Saxons, after all, is to ground it in the broader Germanic ethno-cultural history. Philip K. Dick, with German ancestry of his own, compellingly imagined how easy it would’ve been for Americans to have culturally assimilated to German society if the Nazis had won the war and come to rule much of North America. As Americans introduced eugenics ideology to the Germany, the Nazis looked admiringly to the American example of Jim Crow. All of this was part of Carnegie’s personal vision.
The debate over (Anglo-)American cultural uniqueness and autonomy would erupt again with the Cold War, which at its heart was a culture war. The ruling elite by way of the intelligence agencies sought to promote America as an empire in its own right, an empire that would become a global superpower with geopolitical and economic dominance. But first an American culture had to be established and that is why the intelligence agencies promoted American Studies in universities and paid American artists and writers, specifically in promoting a certain kind of modernism (Early Cold War Liberalism). During the world war era, multiculturalism and the immigrant experience had been suppressed through the force of law, violence and internment camps. Except for a few select countries, there were severe restrictions on immigrants even from most of Europe, as part of the eugenics agenda. This carried over into a cultural homogoneity during the Cold War. With Anglo-American hegemony, the United States and United Kingdom mended their centuries-old division and became even stronger allies, in fulfillment of the WASP imperial dream of Whiggish progress, but now it was America that was in the lead position.
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Race, Utopia, Perpetual Peace: Andrew Carnegie’s Dreamworld
by Duncan Bell
Hubris, Thy Name Is Anglo-American Elite
by Bionic Mosquito
“Anglo-American Union: Not Warranted by Ties of Blood”
by E. W. Skinner
Midland Monthly Magazine: Volume 5, January 1, 1896
edited by Johnson Brigham
The subject of an Anglo-American union, which was introduced by Mr. Andrew Carnegie in the North American Review, for June, 1893, and continued by Sir George Clarke, Mr. Arthur Silva White, Captain Mahan and Lord Beresford, in later numbers, has been discussed on the assumption that the people of the United States are very largely of English blood. Mr. Carnegie, as his first proposition, says, “The American remains three-fourths purely British,” and then follows the suggestion that the mixture of the other fourth is substantially all German, and that all three, German, American and Briton, are Teutonic. If this reasoning is correct, why should not all Teutonic people be em braced in the union? Or would it not be quite as natural for England to unite with her ancient mother as to expect the United States to cross seas to unite with hers?
Mr. Carnegie further says: “The amount of blood, other than Anglo-Saxon and German, which has entered into the American, is almost too trifling to deserve notice.” If he would claim all western and northern Europe as composed of Anglo-Saxon and German people he is not far wrong, for all of these have contributed liberally to make up this composite nation. There were substantial Scandinavian settlements on the Lower Delaware and Connecticut rivers at an early day, almost as early as the settlement of the Puritans at Plymouth, or the Hollanders at New Amsterdam. Colonies of French, German and Swiss Protestants were located in North Carolina, and New Berne was founded by the latter. The South Atlantic and Gulf States were originally settled by French and Spaniards.
France laid claim to all the country west of the Alleghanies and French settlements were scattered throughout the whole of the great central valley of the continent. Green Bay and the Fox River, in Wisconsin, were occupied by the French soon after Marquette made his first trip of discovery to the Mississippi. Eastern and northern Michigan were first settled by French. The French took possession of the Mississippi and many of its tributaries, established cities and settlements from its mouth to its source. As early as 1700 they had a town, Cahokia, on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, near the present site of East St. Louis, which is said to have had as many inhabitants, at that time, as Quebec. The French, when expelled from Acadia, moved in a body to their brethren on the Mississippi. Everywhere throughout this great central region we find descendants of the early pioneers. If the historian would ignore their presence, the geographer cannot, for their ubiquity is attested by names they have given to cities, counties and streams all over the country, from the Alleghanies westward.
We have meager statistics as to the number of people in the United States or their place of origin, at the time of the Revolution, and the early census enumerations did not undertake to classify. All were Americans. We know, however, that New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware were settled by Hollanders and Germans, and that their descendants were nearly, if not quite, as numerous as were the English, at the time of the separation. Had Mr. Carnegie investigated the personnel of the business men surrounding his Pittsburgh home, he would have found that the majority of those controlling the manufacturing and mining industries, as well as the railroads of Pennsylvania, were descendants of the Dutch pioneers. The only colonies that were pure English were those of New England, east of the Connecticut River, and Virginia. England, as she conquered new territory, did not drive out the occupying people, but she introduced her vigorous language. The United States has wisely pursued the same policy. In many sections, however, the adoption of the language has been slow. Within forty years, sections of Pennsylvania had to import teachers if they wished English taught in their schools. To within a few years Louisiana has printed her laws in French as well as English. In New Mexico there was strong opposition to inserting in the act of ad mission as a state, by the last Congress, a clause requiring English to be taught in the public schools.
At the time of the separation it is evident that there was no ascendency of English blood in the then United States. After the acquisition of that portion called “The Louisiana Purchase,” which added so many French, and later, the acquisition of Texas and the territory from Mexico (embracing California, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho), populated by Spanish, it left those of English blood largely in the minority. And, since we have become an independent nation, the immigration from other countries has been largely in excess of that from England. There have nearly as many come to us from the Scandinavian countries alone as from England. England’s colonies have offered inviting fields for her surplus population. Other countries, not having such outlets of their own, have given us liberally of their enterprising sons.
By the census of 1890 it is shown that 20,676,046, or thirty-three per cent of the whole population of the United States, were of foreign parentage – that is, per sons born in foreign countries, with their children. Children born to the second and later generations would be classed as natives. Of those of foreign parentage there was but 9.37 per cent from England. From the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, the percent age is 7.49, or more than seven-ninths as many as from England. Of French and French Canadians there was 3.75 per cent, or more than one-third as many as from England. Ireland furnished us 24 per cent, while Germany’s proportion was 33.39 per cent. Austro-Hungary, Italy and Russia each gave small percent ages by this census, but the immigration from these countries has largely increased since 1890.
In 188o the whole number of persons of foreign parentage was Io,892, or 5, the total population being 50, 155,783. The percentage shown by this census, of the nationalities of the foreign born population, does not materially differ from that shown by the census of 1890.
In 1870 the foreign born population was 5,567,292, of which England furnished 550,688, or one-tenth.
From the statistics given it may be safely inferred that more than fifty per cent of the population of this country has come to us from abroad, or has descended from those who have come, since the Revolution. Making a liberal allowance for those of English blood, who have come from Canada and other provinces, there is not over one-seventh of this added population English.
It will, then, be seen that the people of the United States, or America as we are called abroad, is not composed of pure English stock. It is safe to estimate that not thirty per cent of the blood of Americans is English. In fact, I think that outside of New England not one family in one hundred is of unmixed English blood, and into New England there has been, during recent years, a heavy immigration of Canadian French to the manufacturing towns, while Scandinavians have begun to occupy the deserted farms, notably in Massachusetts.
Mr. Carnegie says that the American, in many respects, resembles the Scotch man more than the English. There is no doubt that the infusion of Norse blood into the American has brought him to resemble the Scotch, who are largely of Scandinavian origin. Matthew Arnold noted the difference in the appearance of the two peoples. In his first visit to this country he wrote of us: “The American Philistine, however, is certainly far more different from his English brothers than I had before supposed.” All travelers note this difference. An American in London is known at sight by every bootblack, while in America an English man can no more conceal his identity than can the bewhiskered Russian. With the Scandinavian it is different. A young man from the cities of Sweden or Nor way has but to change his clothing and learn to speak our language and he be comes an American, through and through. In looks, in actions, he cannot be detected from one to the manor born.
It is not strange that Mr. Carnegie, reclining within the shadow of the craigs of his native Scotia, should “look for ward” with fond hope to a union of his native land with the country of his adoption. His natal instinct binds him with reverence to the land of his birth, while admiration for the land where his years of active manhood were passed would prompt such a desire. Here, by energy and foresight, he wrought a name and acquired a fortune, which enables him to recline with ease and to dispense with a liberal hand from an ample store, in aid of worthy objects. What more natural than to overlook all obstacles to a union, which would be fraught with such pleasurable emotions?
In his desire for the union he fails to read aright “the writing between the lines” in the credentials to, and the resolutions and petitions passed by, the Continental Congress. There was a desire for liberty and separation, widespread and general, throughout the Colonies. Had his ancestors passed through that struggle, he would have felt that some thing deeper than the asking for a few concessions animated the members of that convention and the people whom they represented. But they were willing to wait, were willing to petition for that which they knew would not be granted. By a conservative, conciliatory course, they cemented more firmly all classes at home. By this course they won many friends among the Liberals in England, and appealed more strongly to the sympathies of other nations. Had England, at that time, yielded to the petitions, the separation might have been delayed, but that it would, eventually, have come, there is little doubt.
The obstacles to a union with England are insurmountable, were it even desirable. The argument for the union, on the ground of unity of race, hangs by a very slender thread. There is but one bond, and that is one language. Great Britain is too great and too powerful to become a component part of another nation. If she could become the con trolling spirit, the governing hand, then would she consent to the union, or an absorption.
Mr. White* speaks of a possible dissolution of the British empire and says “the welfare of the United States is bound up with the maintenance of the British Empire” [*North American Review, April, 1894]. Great Britain is not going to dissolve, nor will her power be materially curtailed for centuries. She is the newest nation of Europe, with the latest commingling of races, and, by the trend of natural causes, should be the last to decay. And America is large enough, strong enough to take care of herself. She does not need, as suggested by Mr. White, the assistance of the powerful British navy to protect her commerce or cause her just edicts to be respected throughout the world. For four decades her internal development has absorbed the greater part of the attention and energy of her people. The bulk of her products, both of field and factory, has been required at home. When the surplus, to any great extent, exceeds the home demand, she will find ways and means to increase her commerce. She will not “be satisfied to take a back seat , in the councils of the world.” Neither will she be required to do so.
It is not best, were it practicable, that there should be such a union. Great Britain will accomplish her proper destiny. The United States has a work to do which she can better do alone than by uniting her destiny with any other nation. True, as Mr. Carnegie says, “The combined fleets would sweep the seas.” But this is not what we want. It is not what the world needs. America’s ambition is not, and should not be, to help to strike terror. Her mission is and should be, “On earth peace, good will toward men.” Her territory is from ocean to ocean. From her Atlantic seaboard she should send cheer and succor to the hungry and needy of Europe. From her Pacific shore she should extend to China and Japan, and the islands of the sea, her friendly offices. To all asking aid, she should be ready to send that which would cheer, but never that which would destroy.
Sir George Clarke* alludes to the spontaneous assistance rendered by the United States flag-ship in restoring order at Alexandria [*North American Review, March, 1894]. Also, of the generous cheers of the American seamen at Samoa, when H. M. S. Calliope reached a place of safety. He cites these instances as showing the comity of the two peoples. These were not differing instances from what Americans would have accorded to those of any nation. America does not confine her sympathy or assistance to those who speak her language. The cause of humanity warms the breast of all true men towards all peoples, no matter of what tongue or clime.
We now have enough territory. We need no more land. We have much to do to build up and develop that which we have. To educate, to assimilate the multitudes that come to us, is no small undertaking, but we feel competent to its accomplishment. By the proper mingling of the various races, like the blending of different ores in a furnace, a better product results.
Adam Ferguson, an Edinburgh professor of the last century, begins one of his lectures with these words: “No nation is so unfortunate as to think itself inferior to the rest of mankind; few are even willing to put up with the claim of equality.” We, of America, in this respect, do not vary the rule. An unwillingness “to put up with the claim of equality” is inherited by us. Our ancestors brought this inheritance with them across the Atlantic, planted it in good soil on this side and it has had a healthy growth.