Yesterday I was a little disappointed that the Andrew Hamilton piece at Unz.com did not garner more responses. Today I find that I am disappointed in the responses that have accumulated since I first read the piece.
Sorry for the negative reaction on my part, but I’ve read the same old criticisms and outright slanders of the Anglo-Saxon for most of my adult life, and it provokes a real weariness in this reader.
If only we were actually invisible; better to be unnoticed than to be made the perpetual whipping boy.
Maybe some of the younger or more naive readers are not aware that, once upon a time, Anglo-Saxons, (or ‘WASPs’, if you insist) were viewed in a more benign light, as simply the founding people of what became the U.S.A. More often than not, Anglo-Saxons were treated with respect in history books and in conversation. At some point, the same people suddenly received much more scrutiny and criticism, as a new stereotype of the wealthy, grasping, ‘Puritanical’ villains of the American story. I am not sure when the tide turned; the causes were probably several. One influential critic would be H.L.Mencken, who expressed disdain for many different peoples in this country, but most particularly, the founding stock, Anglo-Saxons. Here’s an example of his idea of the Anglo-Saxon:
‘He is “the least civilized of white men and the least capable of true civilization.” His blood is “running thin,” and “he fears ideas almost more cravenly than he fears men.”’H.L. Mencken
Mencken inspired a lot of Americans, especially those of German descent, to express similar contempt towards Anglo-Saxons, the American-born variety and those native to England.
“The tradition of expressivist opposition to Anglo-Protestant ethnicity probably began with H.L. Mencken, a “muck-raking” social critic who assailed Puritanism as moralistic, aesthetically barren, and an impediment to American intellectual development. Mencken also took on the Anglo-Saxons, describing them as meddlers and moralizers with no culture. As Charles Alexander writes, “by the twenties Mencken’s diatribes against American conventions had made him virtually the high priest of the continuing revolt against the Genteel Tradition” (Alexander 1980: 34-35, 111).
Mencken’s anti-WASP sentiment had two sources: his German background and, probably more important, his sympathy with modernists such as James Huneker, whose M’lle New York was a formative influence on Mencken (Bender 1987: 221). Mencken’s line is easily identified in the writing of many Young Intellectuals like Floyd Dell, who in 1906 proclaimed that Puritanism (which he identified with Anglo-Saxonism) was stifling man’s inner nature: “Amusement is a law of life. We must accept or ignore it. If we ignore it, we must suffer the consequences” (Fishbein 1982: 34). Randolph Bourne, a central figure in American cosmopolitanism, was another pre-World War I Villager who heaped scorn on his ethnic tradition, equating “Anglo-Saxondom” with “masculine domination.”
Having read a lot of Mencken and his disciples who parrot his contempt, I can’t help reciprocating his feelings. I have a perennial question for those who apparently chose to live in a country they hate, amongst a people they hate wholeheartedly — why do they stay? Of course Mencken has long been six feet under, so the question is moot in his case — but why do his like-minded disciples not remove themselves to Germany rather than living in a country they see as odious? Why stay?
But Mencken notwithstanding, I can’t pinpoint a time or an incident which led to the change in attitudes toward Anglo-Saxons, at which time ‘WASPs’ (a name which denotes insects, and unpleasant ones at that) became so disliked by a lot of people in America. The detractors are most often those of German descent. Notice some of the comments reference Germans as being somehow the wronged victims of Anglo-Saxons: one commenter asks resentfully why Germans were not ‘included’ amongst the Anglo-Saxon people, those of the British Isles. Why were they not included, the writer asks. Why? Maybe because the Saxons in question stayed at home while another group removed to the British Isles. Nothing sinister there. Maybe the Saxons were homebodies while the Anglo-Saxons were the explorers.
But still the perennial refrain from the detractors who comment online is that the Germans are the victims of Anglo-Saxons, the Germans are somehow superior, much as Mencken seemed to believe, and so it is not fair that the Anglo-Saxons get the glory.
And how much credit or renown do today’s Anglo-Saxon descendants get? Very little.
I wonder, too, at what point the Anglo-Saxons somehow became inextricably associated in the popular imagination with Jews? It’s somehow to do with the stereotype of the ‘rich WASP’ of formerly Puritan New England. All WASPs are believed (by some) to be ”Boston Brahmins”, living in exclusive enclaves “Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots, And the Cabots talk only to God.” Another rendition of that line is ”and the Cabots speak Yiddish by God.” Yes, somehow most of the detractors of the legendary Boston Brahmins see them as in league with wealthy Jews. Yankees=Jews by another name, according to some people.
Most Anglo-Saxons, especially those in rural areas, had little or no contact with
Jews, and had no bond of connection to collude with them, as some imagine.
However the majority of descendants of the unpopular Puritan/Yankees are not ‘Boston Brahmins’, and the enclaves I would say are mostly gone from Boston and other Yankee (former) strongholds. Most Anglo-Saxon Americans are ordinary people who earn their way and who are indistinguishable by sight from any other Anglo-Americans.
I know both ‘sides’ of the Anglo-American story, as one of my parents was of New England old-stock origins, while the other side was of the ‘First Families’ of Virginia, of ‘Cavalier’ stock — another group who are harshly judged because of Political Correctness. A newly popular idea, that the two groups of Anglo-Saxons are ”two different races” is absurd. No such division is detectable, apparently, in DNA testing. Cultural divisions? Of course, but that does not make the groups ”two different peoples.” This talk may have come from one of the popular writers like Fischer or Woodard, but it is not scientifically verified by any means. Fischer for one is too facile in saying that the Puritans came from East Anglia — but Puritanism was not some isolated phenomenon that occurred only in that one region or any other one region. My Puritan ancestors came from varied parts of England. The Puritan family of my maternal kin name came from Hampshire, in the South of England, not East Anglia.
Broad generalizations often don’t apply, but the trope about Yankees being some alien people who lived in East Anglia, as a separate people from the Cavalier classes (who held to the Church of England)is just inaccurate. My Cavalier ancestors, some of them, also came from the South of England as did some of my Puritan forebears.
The Cavaliers and the Puritans who came here spoke the same language, looked similar, held to the same traditions and culture. They were not two separate peoples. They were descended from the same stock. You can say that the Normans remained separate as a people, but both the Cavaliers and the Puritans might also have had Norman ancestry which bound them together genetically, rather than making them different peoples.
Popular histories are not to be taken on blind faith; ‘experts’ have their own biases, and history is hardly an exact science, just as ‘science’ is now compromised. Science today is sometimes carried along by trends in pop culture and is affected by Political Correctness. Witness the ‘climate catastrophe’ cult, or the admixture of ‘New Age’ with quantum physics, etc.
Just now, as you no doubt have noticed, the Anglo-Saxon, having once been at the pinnacle (our English kin, with their erstwhile Empire on which the sun never set) is now a villain in Western history. Read the comments on the Unz.com article; the Anglo is the bad guy. The enemies of Western civilization, those who’ve been pulling down statues everywhere, are pulling down mostly statues of Anglo-Saxon heroes. The Anglo-Saxon is targeted to be humbled and condemned, as punishment for once having been at the top of the pyramid. That fact appears to have galled H.L. Mencken and his present-day counterparts, those of German extraction who believe they are slighted or robbed of their rightful place of honor — as they see it. There is lots of envy and resentment.
Most often those who write scholarly or quasi-scholarly books on this subject are prone to blame Anglo-Saxons for losing their grasp on this country — while at the same time harboring resentments towards the Anglo-Saxons because they were for a long time the dominant group. Their attitudes are ambivalent: first, how dare those snobbish Anglo-Saxons dominate this country? After all ‘it was not really theirs; it was stolen from the Native Americans. Haven’t we all heard that? Then in the next breath the critic will blame the Anglo for ‘giving the country away.’ They ‘became weak’ — but wait; they were domineering and oppressive. The critics are often incoherent.
Still there is no denying the facts, try as they might, there is just no getting around the fact that it was English colonists, in 1607 and 1620, who founded the colonies that endured, against all odds. The English colonies formed the core of what was to be the U.S. If others want to resent and envy that, or to pretend that their ancestors were first or best — I can’t help them. Their resentment is on a par with the usual complaints from the legions of the aggrieved. Victimhood is enjoying a real heyday now. Maybe they should get reparations along with their oppressed brothers.