H.P. Lovecraft on the future of Americanism

H.P. Lovecraft, the great New England writer of fantasy-horror stories, wrote a great deal on many subjects in his time. In 1919 he wrote the following:

“The greatest foe to rational Americanism is that dislike for our parent nation which holds sway amongst the ignorant and bigoted, and which is kept alive largely by certain elements of the population who seem to consider the sentiments of Southern and Western Ireland more important than those of the United States. In spite of the plain fact that a separate Ireland would weaken civilisation and menace the world’s peace by introducing a hostile and undependable wedge betwixt the two major parts of Saxondom, these irresponsible elements continue to encourage rebellion in the Green Isle; and in so doing tend to place this nation in a distressingly anomalous position as an abettor of crime and sedition against the Mother Land. Disgusting beyond words are the public honours paid to political criminals like Edward, alias Eamonn, de Valera, whose very presence at large among us is an affront to our dignity and heritage. Never may we appreciate or even fully comprehend our own place and mission in the world, till we can banish those clouds of misunderstanding which float between us and the source of our culture.

But the features of Americanism peculiar to this continent must not be belittled. In the abolition of fixed and rigid class lines a distinct sociological advance is made, permitting a steady and progressive recruiting of the upper levels from the fresh and vigorous body of the people beneath. Thus opportunities of the choicest sort await every citizen alike, whilst the biological quality of the cultivated classes is improved by the cessation of that narrow inbreeding which characterises European aristocracy.

Total separation of civil and religious affairs, the greatest political and intellectual advance since the Renaissance, is also a local American—and more particularly a Rhode Island—triumph. Agencies are today subtly at work to undermine this principle, and to impose upon us through devious political influences the Papal chains which Henry VIII first struck from our limbs; chains unfelt since the bloody reign of Mary, and infinitely worse than the ecclesiastical machinery which Roger Williams rejected. But when the vital relation of intellectual freedom to genuine Americanism shall be fully impressed upon the people, it is likely that such sinister undercurrents will subside.

The main struggle which awaits Americanism is not with reaction, but with radicalism. Our age is one of restless and unintelligent iconoclasm, and abounds with shrewd sophists who use the name “Americanism” to cover attacks on that institution itself. Such familiar terms and phrases as “democracy,” “liberty,” or “freedom of speech” are being distorted to cover the wildest forms of anarchy, whilst our old representative institutions are being attacked as “un-American” by foreign immigrants who are incapable both of understanding them or of devising anything better.

This country would benefit from a wider practice of sound Americanism, with its accompanying recognition of an Anglo-Saxon source. Americanism implies freedom, progress, and independence; but it does not imply a rejection of the past, nor a renunciation of traditions and experience. Let us view the term in its real, practical, and unsentimental meaning.”

From The United Amateur, July 1919

Obviously Lovecraft was unorthodox by today’s skewed standards, and he was probably even to the right of many of his contemporaries. He did not conform to the popular beliefs, such as the ‘great American Melting Pot’ or in equality, which is in fact an abstraction that can never be realized, much less maintained, in a fallen world, a world in which innate differences are fact.

So I think Lovecraft’s instincts were more right than wrong, and worth considering. He was certainly a man with unique viewpoints which might have something to offer today’s world, though the trend is very much in the opposite direction.

2 thoughts on “H.P. Lovecraft on the future of Americanism

  1. “whilst our old representative institutions are being attacked as “un-American” by foreign immigrants who are incapable both of understanding them or of devising anything better”

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    Liked by 1 person

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